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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 00:26 GMT
Sunbeds 'raise' skin cancer risk
A woman on a sunbed
Lying on a sunbed could increase your chances of a number of more common skin cancers, suggests a scientific study.

The popularity of "tanning salons" is scarcely diminished despite advice from doctors over the past decade that using them may add to your overall risk of developing cancer.

There is some evidence that the most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, is increased by sunbed use.

Sun exposure early in life also appears to play a role in risk of skin cancer

Margaret Karagas
research leader
However, research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims to have found a link between tanning lamps and two other types of skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are far more common than melanoma, but have very low mortality rates.

Many will still require surgery and other treatments to cure.

Researchers from the Dartmouth Medical School in the US interviewed almost 1,500 people between 25 and 74 years old - most of whom had developed skin cancer - asking them about their history of sun exposure, sunbed usage and smoking history.

Overall, people who reported having any use of tanning lamps were 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than those who did not use tanning lamps.

Women younger than 50 were more likely to report using a tanning device, though the younger the person using the tanning device, the higher the risk of cancer.


Margaret Karagas, who led the research, said: "Sun exposure early in life also appears to play a role in risk of skin cancer."

One British expert, Professor Brian Diffey from the University of Newcastle, said that it was difficult to separate the extra risk from sunbed use over and above a lifetime of exposure to sunlight.

In the case of basal cell carcinoma, he said, smoking may also have a contribution to make.

"The evidence suggests there may be a weak association - certainly it's my view that use should be discouraged."

See also:

23 Mar 01 | Health
Why smokers' skin 'ages' faster
13 Jun 01 | Health
Cheap sun screens 'just as good'
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