European Study Reinforces Tanning Bed Links to Deadly Skin Cancer

by Chris Curley on July 27, 2012

As many as one in 20 cases of deadly melanoma could be attributed to tanning-bed use, a new European study suggests.

Previous studies have linked tanning bed usage (and tanning in general) to higher risk of all forms of skin cancer, melanoma included. This study strengthens that link, adding that tanners have a 20-percent higher risk of skin cancer than non-tanners — and an 87-percent higher risk if they begin tanning before age 35, HealthDay News reported July 24.

“Tanning beds are worse than the sun for risk of melanoma based on these results,” says Jeffrey C. Salomon, Ph.D., of Yale University. “The risks from tanning beds are real, the untoward results can be dire, and the ultimate solution may require total prohibition.”

John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, argues that commercial tanning is different in the U.S. than in Europe. “The United States Food and Drug Administration … requires that all tanning equipment used in the United States carry labels specifying the recommended exposure times for each skin type, which have been calculated to prevent burning,” he says.

Despite that assertion, many U.S.-based studies have shown similar links between indoor tanning and melanoma. Around one-in-three white women ages 14 to 22 tan at least once per year, and cases of melanoma among young adults has risen six-fold in the last 40 years, studies show.

The study appears online in the British Medical Journal.

(Photo © Evil Erin via Flickr)