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Jury Still Out on Cancer Risk from Tanning Beds

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Young people with fair skin who go to tanning salons may be at increased risk of developing melanoma, the rarest but most deadly form of skin cancer, researchers in the UK report. However, the increased risk of melanoma seems small.

On the other hand, the researchers say it may be too soon to measure the full effect of sunbeds, or tanning beds, on melanoma risk since the popularity of tanning salons has increased dramatically in recent years. “The increase in sun exposure and sunbed use in Caucasian populations over the last 20 years may also have a significant effect on the melanoma risk in the years to come, so the true impact of sunbed exposure is, as yet, uncertain,” according to a team led by Dr. Veronique Bataille of St Thomas Hospital in London. The findings are published in the European Journal of Cancer. Many studies have detected a connection between sun exposure and the risk of melanoma, the authors note. But other factors besides sun exposure, such as skin type, may also affect the risk of this type of skin cancer. There is little doubt that fair-skinned people who live in sunny places like Australia need to take precautions to reduce their exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, but it is uncertain whether people living in shadier places, such as the UK, need to be as concerned. Bataille and colleagues compared 413 UK residents who were diagnosed with melanoma from 1989 to 1993 and 416 residents who did not have skin cancer. All participants were interviewed about their past sun exposure and use of sunbeds. Overall, Bataille’s team did not find a significant association between exposure to natural or artificial ultraviolet radiation and an increased risk of melanoma. This suggests that people in the UK are not generally exposed to enough ultraviolet radiation to increase the risk of melanoma, according to the report. However, the risk of melanoma was significantly higher in young people with fair skin who used sunbeds, the study found. And people who had experienced 10 or more severe sunburns were also more likely to develop melanoma. “We cannot rule out that sunbeds have a small effect on the incidence of melanoma,” Bataille told Reuters Health. But this effect “is likely to be small,” Bataille told Reuters Health. But some people, including redheads and blondes, are more at risk than others, she said. Fair skin as well as the presence of moles are “much better” predictors of melanoma risk than ultraviolet exposure, she commented. Because these factors are strongly influenced by a person’s genes, the UK researcher called for more research into the genetic factors associated with melanoma risk. (Source: European Journal of Cancer: Reuters Health: Merritt McKinney: MedLine Plus: April 2004.)

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Dates

Posted On: 3 April, 2004
Modified On: 3 December, 2013

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