Posted on Aug 05, 2009, 12 p.m.
International experts have moved tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer-risk category, calling them as deadly as tobacco use, arsenic and radon gas.
For years, sunlamps and sunbeds were classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) -- part of the World Health Organization -- as "probable carcinogens." Now, ultraviolet radiation tanning beds have been moved into the highest cancer risk category -- carcinogenic to humans. This classification puts sunbeds in the same risk category as tobacco use, radon gas, plutonium, radium, arsenic and radioiodines, which affect the thyroids in children and adolescent survivors of nuclear reactor accidents.
The analysis by WHO cancer experts, who reviewed approximately 20 different studies, concluded that the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. The IARC experts also found that all types of ultraviolet radiation caused “worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic.” Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was considered lethal. "People need to be reminded of the risks of sunbeds," said Vincent Cogliano, one of the researchers from the IARC who contributed to the study. "We hope the prevailing culture will change so teens don't think they need to use sunbeds to get a tan." The research was recently published online in the medical journal Lancet.
Most lights used in tanning beds primarily give off ultraviolet radiation, which cause skin and eye cancer, says the agency. However, with the increasing use of tanning beds by people under 30, doctors have seen a parallel rise in the numbers of young people with skin cancer. For example, in England, melanoma is now the leading cancer diagnosed in women in their 20s. Typically, skin cancer rates are highest in people over 75.
News Release: WHO: Tanning beds can cause cancer www.lef.org July 29, 2009
News Release: Tanning beds now listed among top cancer risks www.usatoday.com July 29, 2009