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Indoor tanning puts youth at risk for basal cell carcinoma

Harold Mandel's picture
A tanning bed

There is a great deal of emphasis on looking good in our society. This often leads young people to seek out indoor tanning parlors and to ignore warnings that these places can be dangerous. Kids often take the position that the risk of cancer from indoor tanning is just a lot of hype. However, it has been observed that there is an increased risk of skin cancer in kids who are exposed to indoor tanning.

Indoor tanning is common among young people

Indoor tanning with UV radiation–emitting lamps has become common among adolescents and young adults reported the journal Pediatrics. There has been a rising incidence of rates of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) reported for the United States and elsewhere, particularly among those who are diagnosed at younger ages. Concerns have been raised by recent epidemiologic studies that indoor tanning may be contributing to the early occurrence of BCC. Younger people may be particularly vulnerable to cancer risk which is associated with this exposure.

Basal cell carcinoma is associated to indoor tanning

Researchers gathered data on indoor tanning from 657 cases of BCC and 452 controls who were less than or equal to 50 years of age. Early-onset BCC was found to be associated to indoor tanning. It was observed that the strongest association occurred for first exposure as an adolescent or as a young adult. There was a 10 percent increase in the adjusted odds ratio with each age younger at first exposure. The associations between indoor tanning and BCC were seen for each type of device which was examined including:

1: Sunlamps

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2: Tanning beds

3: Tanning booths

The researchers concluded that early exposure to indoor tanning increases the risk for the early development of BCC. The researchers have highlighted the vital importance of counseling adolescents and young adults about the risks of indoor tanning and of discouraging parents from allowing minors to do this.

Early exposure to the ultraviolet radiation lamps is particularly risky

Clearly indoor tanning at a young age increases early risk of skin cancer reports the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Early exposure to indoor tanning places adolescents and young adults at increased risk for basal cell carcinomas.The researchers have found that early exposure to the ultraviolet radiation lamps which are used for indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of developing basal cell carcinomas (BCC) at a young age.

High schools often have indoor tanning salons nearby

Lead author of this study Professor Margaret Karagas has said these findings have suggested that teens and young adults who seek indoor tanning may be particularly vulnerable to the development of BCC, which is the most common form of skin cancer, at a young age. A recent survey in New Hampshire, where this study was done, found that 74 percent of high schools have at least one tanning salon located within 2 miles. An added 22 percent of high schools have easy access to a tanning salon. This makes it all the more imperative to assist young people in understanding the risks associated with indoor tanning.

It has been noted in this study that indoor tanning products can produce 10 to 15 times as much UV radiation as the midday sun produces. It is therefore clear that exposure to these indoor tanning products can be very risky, particularly for young people. The recommendation of medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, to minimize ultraviolet exposure, including from indoor tanning, should be taken seriously. Parents and kids alike should be counseled regarding this problem.