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Want to reduce your risk of skin cancer? Quit tanning indoors, study says

DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Indoor tanning is linked to an increased risk of melanoma, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center and School of Public Health.

“There was no safe tanning device,” says DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D., M.P.H., leader of the study and coleader of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Prevention and Etiology Research Program. “We also found—and this is new data—that the risk of getting melanoma is associated more with how much a person tans and not the age at which a person starts using tanning devices. Risk rises with frequency of use, regardless of age, gender, or device.”

And indoor tanning is a cancer risk that can be avoided, Lazovich adds.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and one of the fastest increasing cancers across the country. About 69,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma this year. And although melanoma accounts for only about 4 percent of all skin cancers, it causes about 79 percent of deaths from skin cancer.

This study, the largest of its kind, involved 1,167 Minnesotans diagnosed with melanoma and 1,101 Minnesotans without melanoma. It found that:

  • People who use any type of tanning bed for any amount of time are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have not used tanning beds;
  • 62.9 percent of the group with melanoma and 51.1 percent of the control group had tanned indoors; and
  • Frequent users of indoor tanning beds—defined as those who have used indoor tanning for more than 50 hours, 100 sessions, or 10 years—are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to develop melanoma than those who never use tanning devices.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, the study was published May 27 online in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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