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Indoor tanning linked to common skin cancers

Still think indoor tanning beds are a perfectly healthy way to get a year-round natural glow?

Perhaps this will change your mind. A new study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal has found people who use tanning beds are more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) than those who don't. And the findings indicate greater risk for people who used tanning beds before age 25.

The study estimates that tanning beds account for more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States every year.

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It's a significant finding, one that highlights continuing concerns with the use of tanning beds.

In 2009, the World Health Organization declared the ultraviolet light from tanning beds causes cancer, a move that helped elevate campaigns to restrict the use of tanning beds, particularly among young people.

Indoor tanning salons are popular among teens looking for a sun-kissed complexion for events such as prom. As a result, groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society have led campaigns to ban young people from using tanning beds without parental consent.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the province would enact a ban against indoor tanning for people under age 18. British Columbia plans to follow suit, and Quebec introduced similar legislation several months ago. Manitoba requires people under age 18 to have written consent before using an indoor tanning bed, while Oakville recently became the first city in Ontario to ban young people from using them.

Members of the tanning industry say that indoor tanning is safe and that they have introduced measures to protect consumers, such as prohibiting those most at risk, such as fair-skinned individuals, from using their services.

The problem is, tanning beds aren't safe, according to the researchers.

"Not only do tanning beds cause melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, but our study shows they also contribute to the most common cancer, basal and squamous cell skin cancer," lead researcher Eleni Linos, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, told HealthDay News. "We could prevent hundreds of thousands of cancers each year by avoiding tanning beds."

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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