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Cancer Linked to Tanning

A 20-year Survey Links Tanning Booth Use to Skin Cancer

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog 6:30 PM PDT, October 25, 2011

The more you use a tanning bed, the higher your risk of deadly skin cancers, according to research presented at an international cancer conference this week.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University in Boston followed 73,494 nurses who participated in a health study from 1989 to 2009, tracking their tanning-bed habits during high school and college, as well as between the ages of 25 and 35.

They also tracked overall average usage during those two periods in relation to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma -- three different skin cancers that are each named after the type of cells they affect. Of the three, melanoma is the least common but the most deadly.

For every four visits per year to a tanning booth, risk for basal and squamous cell carcinoma jumped 15% and risk for melanoma rose 11%. What's more, the researchers found that using tanning booths in the younger age range, during high school and college, had a stronger effect on cancer risk.

The research was presented at the 10th AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

Tanning beds have long been under fire for cancer risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement this year that supported banning tanning beds for children younger than 18. And this month, the beds were banned for use by minors in California.

Surveys show teenage girls and young women know the risks but use tanning beds anyway.