nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tanning Beds And Risk Of Skin Cancer

This post is timely because the FDA is considering further restrictions on tanning bed use, possibly an age limitation that would ban those under 18 years old from using tanning beds.

The Tanning Salon industry is disputing the link between exposure and cancer later in life.

Doesn't this sound a lot like what the tobacco companies said decades ago?

Admittedly there's not a lot of data to show a direct link between tanning bed use (specifically) and skin cancer.  And, tanning beds tend to use the UVA, an ultraviolet light that is less prone to causing skin damage and cancer.  However, in 2003 the World Health Organization put out a report that the tanning industry was resorting to UV lamps with increasing amounts of the more dangerous UVB, in order give customers a speedier tan.

Another bit of suggestive evidence is dermatologists reporting that they are seeing younger patients with skin cancer, in their 20's and 30's.  Surveys show that teenage girls are common users.

But, since we do know that UV is related to skin cancer, and increased exposure raises the risk of skin cancer, I don't need a lot of evidence to confirm that the UV from tanning beds contributes to the overall UV exposure risk.

Besides, I think it's unlikely we will get directly causal evidence of the increased risk:  you would have to have a control group that had no sun exposure, only tanning bed exposure.  How likely is that?

The bottom line:  we engage in risky behavior every day.  It's probably a lot more risky to drive a car than to risk cancer from a tanning salon.  However, for the intended result--a temporarily more attractive appearance--some people may want to give it some thought.  And, the more UV exposure, the earlier in life skin damage appears.  Not a good trade-off in my opinion.

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