Early tanning bed use boosts skin cancer risk

March 7, 2012

A new study associates use of tanning beds - especially in high school and college - with an increased risk of skin cancer.

Boston - A new study associates use of tanning beds - especially in high school and college - with an increased risk of skin cancer.

HealthDay News reports that a research team led by Mingfeng Zhang, M.D., of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, conducted a prospective observational study of 73,494 female nurses over 20 years (1989 to 2009) to investigate whether the frequency of tanning bed use during high school or college and at ages 25 to 35 correlated with the risk of skin cancer. Adjustments were made for host risk factors, sun exposure behaviors at a young age and ultraviolet index of residence.

The researchers found that 5,506 nurses were diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), 403 with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and 349 with melanoma. For an incremental increase in use of tanning beds of four times per year during both periods, the multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio of skin cancer was 1.15 for BCC, 1.15 for SCC and 1.11 for melanoma. There was a significantly higher risk of BCC associated with the use of tanning beds during high school or college more than six times per year, compared with no use (1.73) versus use (1.28) at ages 25 to 35.

“Our data provide evidence for a dose-response relationship between tanning bed use and the risk of skin cancers, especially BCC, and the association is stronger for patients with a younger age at exposure,” the authors wrote. “These findings provide evidence to support warning the public against future use of tanning beds and enacting state and federal legislation to ban tanning bed use for those under age 18.”

The study appears in the online Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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