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Study: Surgeon General Warns About Tanning Beds, Deadly Skin Cancer

Aug 1, 2014

Experts agree that tanning is a significant United States health issue and increases risks for certain cancers, some life threatening.

Borish Lushniak, the U.S. Surgeon General, recently issued a warning indicating that when outside, to remain in the shade and wear sunglasses. Tanning booths should be avoided, according to the Surgeon General, wrote News Ledge.

The Surgeon General also told The Washington Post that, “Right now we’re seeing kind of a bad trend developing when it comes to skin cancers. Skin cancers—melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer—are increasing. It got to the point for us, right now, to be able to say, ‘We need to have this call to action.’”

The incidence of skin cancers is increasing in the United States with approximately 5 million people being treated for cancer each year. Of these, 63,000 cases are considered serious and 6,000 are associated with tanning bed use, according to News Ledge.

In fact, people who use tanning beds have a 69 percent increased likelihood of developing basal cell cancer (BCC) before the age of 40, when compared to those who have never used a tanning bed. The increased risk is more commonly seen in women and the risk increases with years of tanning bed use, a study conducted by doctors at Yale University indicated in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. BCC has also been on the rise, with rates increasing 17 percent since the 1970s.

The findings back up prior research conducted at the University of Minnesota, which revealed that tanning bed users—regardless of the type of tanning and the length of time the individuals tanned—were 74 percent likelier to develop melanoma. Melanoma is considered the deadliest and most serious type of skin cancer.

More than three-quarters of all skin cancer-related deaths are from melanoma; approximately one person dies from melanoma every hour in the United States. The risk of developing melanoma is 75 percent higher in people exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning and this is associated with sun exposure at an early age, according to a prior The Associated Press report.

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, another prior study found a tie between tanning beds and three common skin cancers: BCC, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The research revealed that people who regularly tan on tanning bed devices run the risk of doubling, even tripling, risks for developing melanoma, which is now one of the most common cancers seen in young adults in the United States and which is also increasing in all age groups.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously indicated that it seeks cancer warnings on sun tanning bed devices as well as increased safety requirements. The Associated Press Health reported that indoor tanning beds would come with warnings concerning cancer risks and would be subject to increased federal oversight.

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