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Tanning beds raise risk of common skin cancer: study

A view of a tanning bed at a spa facility at Mistral Hotel in Gniewino
A view of a tanning bed at a spa facility at Mistral Hotel in Gniewino

(Reuters) - Tanning beds have already been linked to an increased risk of the deadliest type of skin cancer and now new research shows they can also raise the odds of developing the most common form of the disease.

Scientists at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut found that young people who tanned on the indoor beds had a 69 percent increased chance of suffering from early-onset basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

"Indoor tanning was strikingly common in our study of young skin cancer patients, especially in the women, which may partially explain why 70 percent of early-onset BCCs are in females," Susan T. Mayne, the senior author of the study and a professor at the School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The findings, which are reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, support earlier research from the University of Minnesota, where scientists discovered that people who used tanning beds, regardless of the type or for how long, were 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

Mayne and her colleagues interviewed 750 people younger than 40 years old. They analyzed the type of tanning beds used, for how long and how often, any burns that resulted and the age when the beds were first used.

They noted that the risks increased with the number of years the tanning beds had been used.

"We were also surprised to find that one-third of our study participants with BCC had already had at least one additional BCC before age 40, which is very alarming as skin cancers increase in frequency in age," Mayne added.

About 30 million people in the United State use indoor tanning beds, which the World Health Organization classifies as a human carcinogen. In the United States tanning beds are considered a medical device.

Medical experts in the United States have called for stronger regulations on the use of tanning beds.

Cases of melanoma have been rising for the past three decades. Although it only accounts for about for five percent of skin cancer cases it causes the majority of death from the disease. About 70,230 new cases will be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Cases of basal cell cancers are also on the rise but they are likely to be cured if detected and treated early.

"Importantly, indoor tanning is a behavior that individuals can change," said Leah M. Ferrucci, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Public Health and a co-author of the research.

"In conjunction with the findings on melanoma, our results for BCC indicate that reducing indoor tanning could translate to a meaningful reduction in the incidence of these two types of skin cancer," she added.

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