Can We Blame Indoor Tanning For Young Women's Skin Cancer Epidemic?

Photo: Getty Images.
Both social media users and the FDA have previously warned against the regular use of tanning beds, and now, findings from a new study suggest indoor tanning is a likely factor in the climbing melanoma diagnoses among young women. Researchers found that women under 30, who hit the tanning bed regularly, were six times more likely to have been diagnosed with melanoma than women who didn't tan indoors.

The study looked at 681 people (465 of whom were women) who'd received a melanoma diagnosis between 2004-07, as well as 654 people (446 women) who did not have melanoma. All of the participants were between 25-49 years old, and each person filled out a questionnaire about their habits, skin, family history, and more. The researchers also did follow-up phone interviews with the participants.

Among those who said they tanned, researchers found that younger women started earlier and tanned more frequently —those under 40 said they started at 16, while those over 40 started around 25. In the older age ranges (30-49), women were nearly 3-4 times more likely to develop melanoma if they had used the tanning bed more than 10 times.

The results suggest that, as women start indoor tanning earlier, their risk of melanoma increases. In fact, only two of the 63 youngest women with melanoma did not tan indoors.

What comes as bad news for tanning addicts is actually a step forward in solving a growing problem — between 1982 and 2011, rates of melanoma in the U.S. have doubled, and the Skin Cancer Foundation estimates 29,510 new cases will be diagnosed in women in 2016. Although melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, it is considered the most dangerous.

Routine self-exams and skin checks with a doctor
can help you catch it early, but doing what you can to prevent it is important, too. This includes protecting your skin when you're out in the sun, and stepping away from the tanning bed.

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