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Indoor Tanning in Teens Ups the Risk of Skin Cancer, Study Finds

New research found that early exposure to the ultraviolet radiation lamps used for indoor tanning increased the risk of developing skin cancer.

Benita Matilda, Science World, Jun 24, 2014

People often opt for indoor tanning thinking it is safer than acquiring a tan under the sun, which can be harmful in the long run. The popularity of indoor tanning is widespread as over 10 percent of the U.S. citizens avail this facility every year. But research links the use of indoor tanning to the risk of developing melanoma.

Adding evidence to this is a new study, led by researchers at Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Director of the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center, Dartmouth, who found that exposure to UV radiation lamps used in indoor tanning increases the risk of developing basal cell carcinomas (BCC) at a young age.

Since this facility is mostly availed by adolescents and young adults, the researchers suggest the need to counsel young people about the increased risk of indoor tanning.

"Our findings suggest that teens and young adults who seek indoor tanning may be especially vulnerable to developing BCC, the most common form of skin cancer, at a young age," said lead author Professor Margaret Karagas.

A recent survey conducted in New Hampshire found that nearly 74 percent of high schools have at least one tanning salon within a 2 mile radius and also 22 percent of them have easy access to tanning salons.

The study collected data of 657 participants in the New Hampshire Skin Cancer Study. These participants were newly diagnosed cases of BCC. The study also included 452 controls.

The data also included the type of indoor tanning device used including sunlamps, tanning beds or booths. They also took details of sensitivity of the skin to the sun and the time they spent outdoors in childhood.

On evaluating the data, the researchers noticed the participants with early onset of BCC were more vulnerable to burns than tan during the initial hours of exposure to the sun in summers.  In nearly 40 percent of the cases, BCC was found on the torso and places other than the head and neck and the relation with indoor tanning was higher for tumors occurring in these places.

The researchers also found that the products used during indoor tanning produce 10-15 times as much UV rays as the mid-day sun.

The finding was documented in the journal Pediatrics.

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