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Skin Care Warning: Tanning Beds Increase Risk of Most Common Skin Cancer

Skin cancer

(EmaxHealth) NEW HAVEN, CT—As if the previous findings about the dangers of tanning beds and the associated increased risk of the most deadly type of skin cancer were not bad enough, the news gets worse. Now researchers report that use of tanning beds also raises the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which is the most common form of skin cancer. When it comes to skin care, tanning beds may be the skin’s worst enemy.

Time to kiss tanning beds goodbye?

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health questioned more than 750 people younger than 40, some of whom had BCC and some who did not. The participants who said they used tanning beds were asked about how often and how long they used the tanning beds, types of tanning devices used, how many burns then had experienced, and at what age they had first started tanning.

An evaluation of the data revealed that people who had used tanning beds had a 69 percent increased risk of developing early-onset BCC than those who did not use the beds. The association was strongest among women and the risk of getting skin cancer rose as the number of years of indoor tanning use increased.

Basal cell carcinoma forms in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of skin), which differs from melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, which forms in melanocytes—the skin cells that make pigment. BCC typically develops on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun or to tanning devices, and it rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

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According to Susan T. Mayne, professor at the School of Public Health and the study’s senior author, “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 occur in females.”

While news that use of tanning beds increases the risk of both melanoma and basal cell carcinoma is far from good, there is a silver lining. A major form of prevention is simple: do not use tanning beds. The other good news is that BCC can be cured if it is detected and treated early.

“Indoor tanning is a behavior that individuals can change,” noted Leah M. Ferrucci, postdoctoral fellow at the School of Public Health and the study’s first author. The challenge, however, is convincing people, especially young women, to stop using the tanning beds, even as the incidence of BCC is rising, according to recent data.

Given all the time, energy, and money young women spend on skin care, it seems they would want to protect their skin from the damaging, and possibly deadly, effect of tanning beds. Ferrucci concluded that “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.”

National Cancer Institute
Yale School of Public Health

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons