In a recent survey of 600 college students:
- 59% agreed with the statement "tanning bed use can make me ill but everything causes cancer these days"
- 52% agreed with the statement "tanning bed use is no more risky than lots of other things that people do".
These survey results shine light (pun definitely intended) on the thinking process or lack thereof on the use of tanning beds despite ubiquitous warnings of the disturbing dangers.
The use of tanning beds is a significant and common risk factor for the development of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In 2009 when the World Health Organization (WHO) intensified the carcinogen risk categorization of tanning beds to "Class 1" (definitely causes cancer in human) they did so based on "insurmountable scientific evidence" and " numerous and varied studies". This is not something hypothetical, rare or insignificant. On the contrary, this is real, common, and lethal. The WHO found the evidence from numerous studies both sufficient and compelling enough to place tanning beds in the same cancer risk class as cigarettes, arsenic, mustard gas, benzene, and asbestos!
UVA light, which is one component of sunlight and is the primary component of tanning bed light, has been proven in multiple studies to cause destructive gene mutations, chromosome damage and is implicated as the main culprit in melanoma development. Tanning beds radiate cancer causing UVA up to 15 times faster than the midday sun. It comes as no surprise therefore that tanning bed use is associated with an increased risk of melanoma. In fact regular sun bed use can increase ones chance of melanoma development by a whopping 75%.
A May 2012 Journal of Clinical Oncology article found that high school years are a particularly treacherous time for tanning bed use. An analysis of 20 studies published in 2009 in the journal Lancet concluded that the risk of skin cancer jumps to 75% when people start using tanning beds before 30 years old.
The damage done during youth often leads to cancer during youth as well. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in those under 30 years of age. There has been a dramatic rise in melanoma incidence especially in young women in recent years. An NIH study found melanoma rates of young women in the US tripled between 1973 and 2004.
Teen and college age young women in particular are not heeding the message of "no more tan". A third of all caucasian girls between 14 and 22 surveyed in one study used a tan bed and a quarter of those did so weekly.
The WHO and the American Academy of Dermatology and other reputable and prestigious scientific and medical groups call for a total legislative ban on access to artificial tanning devices for children under 18. To date only California has done so; although 31 states, including Connecticut have some legislative age limit on this dangerous activity.
Contact your representatives and urge them to ban tanning bed access for those under 18.
Let's get real about protecting our kids. Don't allow your child to use a tanning bed, EVER!
Spread the word about this danger. On this issue there is no room for debate, delusion or denial, tanning bed use causes skin cancer.
Tell the young women in your life to "Be smart". In this instance, as in most, "Smart is Beautiful"!
Julia Sabetta. MD is the board certified Skin, Laser, Cosmetic, and Skin Cancer Surgeon. Dr. Sabetta was educated at Yale in Dermatology and at University of Pittsburgh in Dermatologic, Laser, Cosmetic, and Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer. Dr. Sabetta specializes in minimally-invasive long lasting skin improvement techniques including FRACTIONAL LASER RESURFACING COMBO for skin tightening and wrinkle reduction, and in ULTHERAPY for non-invasive jowl lifting and neckline sculpting. Understanding the specific needs of each individual, Dr. Sabetta is passionate about giving each patient radiant, natural results balanced with safety and minimal downtime.
Julia Sabetta, M.D.
Skin, Laser & Cosmetic Surgeon
4 Dearfield Drive
225 Main Street