According to a new report out of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Tanning beds / Sunbeds cancer danger is equal to that of cigarettes and asbestos.
Where once it was “probable”, the risk today is rated more seriously – the agency is now calling for these devices to be labeled “carcinogenic to humans”. Those who use them risk becoming bronzed, healthy looking cancer patients
This comes after a review of research conducted by experts from nine countries that found the risk of melanoma was increased 75% in those who routinely used tanning beds before the age of 30.
Melanoma of the eye has also been linked to the use of these devices. Melanoma is the second most common cancer in twenty-something females, this according to the America Melanoma Foundation.
Experts have noticed a rise in melanoma diagnosis, especially for young women, over the last few years.
A National Institute of Health study found that melanoma rates among young women in the US, nearly tripled from 1973 to 2004. Research conducted over the last 10 years offers lots of evidence that tanning beds, as well as direct sun exposure, have played their part in this dramatic increase.
“The use of tanning beds can be deleterious to your health and we hope to encourage governments to formulate restrictions and regulations for the use of tanning beds,” said report coauthor Beatrice Secretan, from the Cancer Monograph Working Group at the IARC, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Estimates from the WHO suggest that perhaps as many as 60,000 people worldwide die from too much sun each year, with most of this number comes from malignant skin cancers.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and tanning beds are commonly used by many, especially the young.
“This new report confirms and extends the prior recommendation of the American Cancer Society that the use of tanning beds is dangerous to your health, and should be avoided,” agrees U.S. expert Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
Many doctors see the latest report as confirmation of what they’ve long believed – overexposure to tanning beds is just as dangerous as sunbathing in natural sunlight.
The report appears in the August 2009 issue of The Lancet Oncology and also confirms that ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC) radiation cause cancer in animals.
This is important as the tanning bed industry has long claimed that the beds are safe because of the type of radiation they offer – more UVA than UVB. This new report tells us that all three types are dangerous.
As for the tanning bed industry, the International Tanning Association (ITA) representing indoor tanning manufacturers and others in the $5 billion a year industry, acknowledge that the UV exposure you get from a tanning bed isn’t discernibly different from what you get from the sun.
The ITA is quick to point out that even natural sun exposure has been given the carcinogenic classification since 1992, sharing this category with salted fish, red wine and beer.
Moving forward, the WHO will work to restrict the use of tanning beds by those under 18. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates labeling of the devices while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates the advertising claims made by tanning beds.
Salons are required to tell customers to wear protective goggles over their eyes, and there are warnings on aging, skin cancer and eye injury.
Since 2007 the FDA has been considering making those warnings stronger, though experts would like to see laws that restrict tanning bed use by minors and a black box warning to users.
In the meantime if you choose to take a trip to the tanning salon, at least you’ll know more about the risk you’re taking.
If you still want the bronzed, glowing look, consider UV-free spray tanning as an option that can give you the look rather than the using a tanning bed and exposing yourself to these sunbed related cancer risks.