LONDON -- Tanning bed use is just as hazardous to your health as smoking cigarettes, according to a study released today by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization agency.
Researchers found that the risk for melanoma, or skin cancer, increases 75 percent when tanning bed use begins before age 30. It also poses an elevated risk for melanoma of the eye.
After conducting a review of current tanning bed research, IARC placed tanning beds in its highest cancer risk category, Group 1, where they are considered “carcinogenic to humans.”
“This new report confirms and extends the prior recommendation of the American Cancer Society that the use of tanning beds is dangerous to your health and should be avoided,” Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement. “Young women in particular are the heaviest users of tanning beds and, as noted in the report, are at the greatest risk of causing harm to themselves.”
Both the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection recommend that tanning bed use be restricted for anyone under age 18.
Earlier this year, a bill introduced in the Texas legislature would require anyone under 18 to have a written doctor’s consent before using a tanning bed.
Some fitness facilities, like Urban Active, offer tanning beds for members. Moderation is key when it comes to indoor tanning, says KT Remus, senior marketing director for Lexington, KY-based Global Fitness Holdings, owner of Urban Active.
“Too much of anything is never a good thing for your health,” she says.
Remus notes that Urban Active also offers a UV-free tanning option called Mystic Tan for people who want to tan without the UV rays.
“This is an interesting [study] because UV overexposure can occur in natural sunlight as well as a tanning bed,” Remus says.
The Indoor Tanning Association downplayed the study results and also stressed moderation.
“The fact that the IARC has put tanning bed use in the same category as sunlight is hardly newsworthy,” Dan Humiston, president of the Indoor Tanning Association, said in a statement from the group. “The UV light from a tanning bed is equivalent to UV light from the sun, which has had a Group 1 classification since 1992. The ITA has always emphasized the importance of moderation when it comes to UV light from either the sun or a tanning bed.”