December 5, 2012

Tanning beds and cancer: A business 'more and more tainted'

Doctors say mounting evidence of the link to melanoma should prompt tougher warnings.

By JASON GALE Bloomberg News

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

International cancer experts have moved tanning beds into the top cancer risk category, but the Food and Drug Administration still lists them as Class I – a category that includes elastic bandages.

The Associated Press

UVA output from indoor tanning devices is four times higher and UVB output is twice as high as noon sunlight in Washington, D.C., during summer, the CDC said in its May report.

"Each person has a certain amount of capital that protects them from cancer," said Beatrice Secretan, a scientist at the WHO's cancer-research agency. "If you burn that capital too quickly, you are in danger of developing cancer. The lighter the skin, the more at risk you are."

A 2010 survey found 5.6 percent of American adults had used indoor tanning in the previous 12 months. Use was highest among young white women, with almost one in three in the 18-to-25 age group having tanned indoors during the prior year. A 2010 study of 1,167 melanoma cases in Minnesota found indoor tanning use was common among 63 percent of patients.

Catherine Olsen, a senior research officer with the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, reviewed the research in the British Medical Journal in October in which scientists analyzed pooled data from 12 studies. They found exposure to indoor tanning increased the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.

The so-called meta-analysis yielded "irrefutable" evidence that tanning beds caused all three types of skin cancer, not just melanoma, Olsen said.

The emerging research on the harm from indoor tanning is beginning to resonate in the United States, where in cities such as San Diego, tanning salons outnumber Starbucks coffee outlets and McDonald's restaurants. Thirty-three states have laws restricting access to indoor tanning under a certain age -- typically 14, 16 or 18 years, the CDC said in May.

"It's a hodgepodge across the United States," said Martin Weinstock, chief of dermatology at the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island.

"The tanning industry does have a lot of a money and, apparently, political power," said Weinstock, chairman of the American Cancer Society's skin cancer advisory committee. "Though they don't have much in the way of scientific argument, they do their best to obfuscate."

One example came after researchers at England's Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine wrote a letter to the editor of the International Journal of Cancer in June saying they had found no statistically significant evidence that tanning beds increase melanoma risk. The research wasn't designed to register a small association between the two, only a large one, said co-author Timothy Bishop, chairman of the Leeds Cancer Research UK Centre.

The Tanning Shop, a British chain of 80 salons, responded to the findings by releasing a statement hailing "definitive results from clinical research" that proved "there is no link between sunbed use and melanoma."

The Leeds researchers don't support that interpretation of their findings, said Bishop, adding that he was "extremely disappointed" with the way the study had been portrayed.

Conflicting reports mean "there's still the perception out there that it's safer" to tan in a salon, according to Olsen from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. "But it's not the case at all."

- With assistance from Makiko Kitamura in London, Maaike Noordhuis in Amsterdam and Anna Edney in Washington.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)