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Teens and Tanning Beds: A Deadly Combination

As evidence of a link between tanning beds and melanoma grows, experts are particularly concerned about teenagers.

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that afflicts nearly 69,000 Americans each year.  With more than 7,000 of those cases resulting in death, scientists are taking a hard look at tanning beds to see if they might be contributing to those numbers.  And according to a new study reported in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, they likely are.

The study, out of Brown University, looked at two kinds of tanning bed technologies – UVA and UVB – and concluded that both increase melanoma risk. They found that someone who has used a tanning bed has a 74% greater chance of developing melanoma than someone who has not.  And those who use tanning beds for 10 or more years have more than twice the risk.

That’s a pretty powerful statement and one the Indoor Tanning Association doesn’t buy.  Although the Association’s John Overstreet stops short of saying that tanning beds are safe, he says conflicting results from various scientific studies leave room for doubt.  “When reputable researchers are coming to vastly different conclusions, it’s clear that a lot more research is needed,” he says. “The science on both sides of the question needs to be weighed before consideration is given to any sweeping policy changes.”

And what are those policy changes to which he is referring?  The FDA is considering recommending that teens be prohibited from using tanning beds – or, at the very least require them to have parental consent. And to discourage teens (and to fund expanded medical coverage), Congress has already instituted a 10% tax on indoor tanning as part of the recent health reform bill.

Yet, despite the fact that the World Health Organization has listed ultraviolet radiation-emitting beds as “carcinogenic to humans,” people still use them. And this time of year, fake baking is particularly popular with teens who want to get that “healthy” glow before prom, graduation and beach season begins.

If parental consent were required for teens to use tanning beds, would you give yours?

Image: Whatsername?/Flickr

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