Tanning bed use linked to higher rates of non-melanoma skin cancers in young women

A new review finds that as many as 170,000 new cases of two forms of non-melanoma skin cancer are directly linked to the use of indoor tanning beds. And most notably, many of the victims are under the age of 30 when they’re diagnosed.

According to an ABC News report this week on a review of previous studies on the subject, researchers at University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) determined that regular tanning bed users under the age of 25 were 67 percent more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 29 percent more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than people who avoided tanning beds altogether.

The risks are highest among younger women, even though these skin cancers are more commonly associated with women of a more advanced age. Tanning beds, numbering in the millions across the nation, are flocked to most traditionally by young women however. For short or longer periods of time, artificial tanners will expose their bare skin to high amounts of ultraviolet lights, eventually developing a skin tone that gives the illusion they’ve been soaking in warm (and nearly just as dangerous) sunlight.

These two forms of cancer affect the upper layers of skin and typically aren’t life-threatening, especially when diagnosed early, but they can be life-altering. Many who develop these forms of cancer, as was detailed prominently in this week’s ABC News report, are forced to undergo surgeries to remove lesions or other skin abnormalities that develop from these cancers. These surgeries often leave victims scarred.

The research conducted primarily at UCSF examined the results of a dozen previous studies on the effects of indoor tanning beds and rates of non-melanoma skin cancers, particularly squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. The findings appear in the most recent edition of the medical journal, BMJ.

Study authors state that the research conducted for the report add to data showing that tanning bed use, especially frequent use of these devices, is linked to all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma skin cancers, as previous studies have suggested.

In recent years, several efforts have been made to increase consumer awareness to the dangers posed by frequent tanning bed use, especially in relation to elevated risks of skin cancer. Tanning beds fall partially under the umbrellas of several regulatory agencies and each has fumbled with opportunities to mandate more prominent displays at tanning salons that alert would-be users to their dangers, especially regarding skin cancer risks.

And until that happens, pro-tanning industry groups will continue to ignore data that suggests tanning is dangerous while promoting its use.

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