2003-11-27 / Medical

State Medical Society Says Tanning Devices Can Double Cancer Risk

State Medical Society Says Tanning Devices Can Double Cancer Risk

Exposing unprotected skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from artificial sources such as sunlamps, tanning booths, or tanning beds is just as dangerous as broiling in the sun, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Those who use artificial tanning devices to maintain a tanned look during New York’s cold winter months should also note that a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that tanning devices can double the risk of common types of skin cancer.

The study compared 900 people with skin cancer to a control group of healthy individuals. The re-searchers found that people who used tanning de-vices were 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma and 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma. These are the two most common types of skin cancers. The study did not look at melanoma, a less common but more serious form of skin cancer.

The risk for developing cancer was greatest for people who used tanning devices before the age of 20. They had a 3.6 times greater risk of developing squamous cancer and a 1.8 greater risk of basal cell cancer than those in the control group. Yet tanning salons are becoming more popular than ever among young people. According to surveys conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology, the use of tanning salons by people under 25 more than tripled between 1996 and 2003. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the use of tanning devices increased with age for girls from 7% at age 14, to 16% by age 15, to 35% by age 17.

Medical Organizations Urge Banning

Tanning Salons

Tanning beds release dangerously high levels of UV radiation, which not only increases the risk for skin cancer, but also causes premature aging of the skin. Tanning beds can also burn skin and eyes and damage the immune system.

The Medical Society of the State of New York supports a complete ban on tanning salons. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology have also urged action that would ban the use of tanning devices for nonmedical reasons.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Cen-ters for Disease Control and Prevention encourage people to avoid using tanning devices. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to be-ware of claims that indoor tanning is safe.

The dangers of artificial tanning are particularly worth remembering during Healthy Skin Month in November when the diminishing sunlight outside may tempt some to head for tanning salons.

Importance of Safe Treatment

Ensuring that patients have access to safe, convenient and cost-effective care in an office setting for sun-damaged and aging skin, as well as other skin and nail conditions, is the focus of the seventh annual National Healthy Skin Program. Some of the most common procedures performed in a dermatologist’s office include skin cancer treatment, mole or wart removal, and laser surgery. Dermatologists are me-dical doctors and surgeons with extensive education and training in diagnosing and treating skin problems.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) encourages patients to consult dermatologists about skin, hair and nail problems and needs. Before agreeing to treatment from any practitioner, however, the Medical Society of the State of New York and AAD recommend asking the following questions:

What are your credentials? Are you a board-certified dermatologist or other appropriately trained physician?

How many of these procedures have you performed?

What results can I expect?

What risks should I know about?

How do you handle emergencies?

      For more information about healthy skin, contact the American Academy of Dermatology at 888-462-DERM or visit the website at www.aad.org.

This information is provided by the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY). For more health-related information and referrals to physicians in your community, contact your local county medical society.

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