My Cancer Advisor > Skin Cancer > Screening and Prevention of Skin Cancer > Cancer Risk of Tanning Beds Equal to Tobacco and Arsenic!

Cancer Risk of Tanning Beds Equal to Tobacco and Arsenic!

International cancer experts have determined that tanning beds and UV radiation should be in the top risk category for developing skin cancer. The associated risk is similar to other cancer-causing agents including tobacco, arsenic and mustard gas! The publication in the prestigious Lancet Oncology (Volume 10, Issue 9, Page 835, September 2009) conducted by the World Health Organization who analyzed 20 published studies. As a result, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) raised the classification of ultraviolet-emitting tanning devices from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans”—the highest risk category—based on evidence of a substantially higher risk of cutaneous melanoma in those who regularly used tanning beds (sunbeds). They concluded that the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75% when people start using tanning beds before age 30 Tanning beds cause about a 20% increased risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. In Britain, melanoma is now the leading cause of cancer in women in their 20s. Previous studies found that younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to get melanoma than people who have never used them.

On a related topic, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) reported last year a disturbing lack of customer screening and generally unsafe equipment use in a survey of 332 tanning salons in Northern Ireland, prompting even the UK sunbed industry to agree that “there may be a case” for better standards.

While occasional use of tanning beds may not be harmful, it is increasingly clear that there is a cancer risk to using tanning beds, especially with repeated use. These dangers should be made made more apparent by tanning salons, especially for young people. This is clearly an industry that needs more regulation about their equipment and warning to the public about their risks!

If you want to learn more about the dangers of tanning saloons and the misinformation from their representatives, go see the video on ABC News: “Tanning Salons Downplay Health Risks”. ABC News 20/20 and Cosmopolitan magazine teamed up for a special investigative report on the deceptions of the tanning industry – both the broadcast news segment and article are very informative to the life-threatening risks of indoor tanning.

My friend Bob Nicolay has been an ardent advocate for regulating tanning facilities in the state of Maryland. Through testimony and written support, the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation was actively involved in passage of the “first in nation” complete ban on teen tanning with regulations unanimously approved on November 10,2009 by Howard County, Maryland’s Board of Health. Effective November 12, the regulations prohibit “minors’ access to indoor tanning devices as well as regulate the sanitary conditions and operation of tanning facilities.” Currently, at least 31 states regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors. For more information, go to their website:

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