More than one third of all adults in the Western world have used indoor tanning beds at some point in their lives. While everyone knows it is risky, no one seems ready to accept that tanning might actually be worse than smoking, and can cause skin cancer.
Dr. Eleni Linos, a dermatologist at University of California San Francisco and lead author of a recent study on indoor tanning and its cancer links, has said that the effects of indoor tanning have been widely seen. The study looked at data from 1986 through 2012 that was collected by 88 different research teams. The data covered skin cancer rates from the United States, Australia and 14 Eastern and Western European countries.
The American Academy of Dermatology, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been cautioning against indoor tanning for years. In 2007, WHO revealed that people who use indoor tanning beds before the age of 30 are 75 percent more likely to develop skin cancer. In 2009, WHO officially labeled tanning beds as “high-level carcinogens.”
On average, 17 out of every 10,000 women who rarely or never indoor tan develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In contrast, 24 out of every 10,000 who regularly use tanning beds develop the deadly disease.
On average, using an indoor tanning bed increases a person’s odds of getting melanoma by approximately 75 percent.
One of the most alarming messages from the recent study was the shockingly common rate at which skin cancer is affecting the population. According to Linos’ findings, tanning beds are actually causing cancer at a higher rate than cigarette smoking. As a result, many are now claiming that tanning is actually worse than smoking, and causes skin cancer.
The study estimated that approximately 419,039 cases of basal and squamous cell carcinoma (NMSC) are attributed to indoor tanning every year. On top of that, another 10,888 cases of melanoma are attributed to tanning bed usage. In contrast, 362,941 cases of lung cancers are estimated to have been caused by lung cancer each year in the researched areas.
Increased risk of skin cancer has also been tied to increased alcohol consumption. Drinking more than just a single serving of beer, wine or liquor per day increases the odds of getting melanoma by 20 percent. People who drink more than four servings of alcohol per day have a risk that is as much as 55 percent higher than non-drinkers.
Alcohol not only makes sunburns worse, but it also increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun and makes it more susceptible to damage, and ultimately, cancer. Approximately 3.6 percent of all cancers are related to alcohol consumption. Approximately 5.2 percent of male cancer patients have conditions related to alcohol consumption, while 1.7 percent of women attribute their cancer to drinking.
On top of the increased physical risk, drinking alcohol simply lowers awareness and makes people more apt to spend extended periods in the sun while also forgoing sun protection.
Experts caution against tanning to prevent cancer as well as avoid the skin damaging and aging effects of tanning beds. On top of preventing skin cancer by avoiding direct sun exposure as much as possible, dermatologists stress the importance of looking for cancer signs. If cancers like melanoma are not detected early, they can quickly spread throughout the body. On top of avoiding obvious health hazards like smoking, it is now even more important to avoid tanning as much as possible. Tanning is actually worse than smoking, and causes skin cancer.
By Nicci Mende