Tanning Beds Pose Serious Cancer Risk, Agency Says
Article date: July 28, 2009
By Rebecca V. Snowden
Tanning beds pose a greater cancer risk than previously believed, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization (WHO) agency that developed the most widely used system for classifying carcinogens. The group has elevated tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category – "carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1). Tanning beds had previously been classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
IARC's decision was based on a comprehensive review of current research, which shows tanning bed use raises the risk of melanoma of the skin by 75% when use starts before the age of 30. The agency also found a link between tanning bed use and risk of melanoma of the eye. Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.
The findings are published in The Lancet Oncology.
Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Much of this exposure comes from the sun, but it also comes from manmade sources, such as tanning beds. Because of the popularity of tanning among young people, both the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection recommend that the use of indoor tanning should be restricted in anyone under the age of 18.
The American Cancer Society recommends people avoid tanning beds altogether.
"This new report confirms and extends the prior recommendation of the American Cancer Society that the use of tanning beds is dangerous to your health, and should be avoided," says Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "Young women in particular are the heaviest users of tanning beds, and, as noted in the report, are at the greatest risk of causing harm to themselves."
The report also puts to rest the argument that tanning with UVA light is safe, Lichtenfeld says.
"Previously, the cancer-causing effects of ultraviolet light were thought to be primarily related to UVB, or ultraviolet B radiation. This new report now extends the cancer-causing effects of solar or sun-related radiation to UVA light, as well," he says. In the past 30 years, the IARC has evaluated the cancer-causing potential of more than 900 likely candidates, placing them into one of five groups, with Group 1, carcinogenic to humans, being the highest risk.
For more information on carcinogens and how they are classified, see our document, Known and Probable Carcinogens. For information on how you can lower your risk of skin cancer, see Sun Safety 101 and Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.
CItation: "A review of human carcinogens -- Part D: radiation." Published in the August 2009 issue of The Lancet Oncology. First author: Fatiha El Ghissassi, on behalf of the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.
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