Melanoma  Photo credit National Institutes of Health

Our skin tans in response to an injury, which can occur from exposure to the sun or exposure to the bulbs in tanning booths.

The skin darkens by producing more pigment to protect itself from exposure to ultraviolet rays, proven carcinogens.

The carcinogens are responsible for creating three types of skin cancer:  melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

On their list of protective actions to take to avoid over exposure to UV rays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute had only three words of protective advice regarding indoor tanning:           Avoid indoor tanning.

Three types of skin Cancer

Melanoma, pictured above, is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing tanning cells.  It’s commonly found on the upper backs of men and women, on the legs of women, but can occur anywhere on the body, including as cancer of the eyeball, known as ocular melanoma.

Over 73% of skin cancer deaths are caused by melanoma.  In its advanced state, it spreads to internal organs.

People in southern areas where sunlight is more intense are more likely to develop the disease than those in northern areas.

It’s also linked to excessive UV exposure in the first 10 to 18 years of a young person’s life.

Basal cell carcinoma Photo credit National Cancer Institute

Basal cell carcinoma is a red, ulcerated lesion surrounded by a white, pearly border.  It’s the most common form of skin cancer and is rarely fatal, but it can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow without treatment.

Squamous cell carcinoma  Photo credit National Institutes of Health

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer.  It may first appear as a patch of scaly eczema and later as a sore from which a tumor may appear.

It kills approximately 2500 people each year in the US.

Indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays and is especially dangerous for younger users.  Those younger than age 35 who begin using tanning beds have a 75% higher risk of melanoma than those who start later in life.

Though tanning booths operate on a timer, the exposure to UV rays varies based on the age and type of tanning bulbs.

Statistics:  Who’s using tanning booths and with what frequency? 

13% of all high school students

21% of high school girls

32% of girls in the 12th grade

29% of white high school girls

32% of non-Hispanic white women aged 18-21 reported using indoor tanning an average of 28 times in the past year.

Among non-Hispanic white adults who used an indoor tanning device in the past year, 58% of women and 40% of men used one 10 times or more.

Non-Hispanic white women aged 18-21 residing in the Midwest (44%) and non-Hispanic white women between ages of 22-25 in the South (36%) were most likely to use indoor tanning devices.

New research indicates that those who make just four visits to a tanning booth per year increase their risk for melanoma by 11%, and their risk for the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, by 15%.

As noted earlier, at greatest risk of developing skin cancer are those who begin using tanning booths between ages 10-18.

Tomorrow:  The unconscionable lies, lies, lies indoor tanning owners tell young girls about the “safety” of using a tanning booth. 

Sources:  Committee on Energy and Commerce minority staff report, February 1, 2012       Skin Cancer Foundation report, February 1, 2012   Center for Disease Control and Prevention press release,  May 10, 2012       Center for Disease Control report, July 16, 2012     Melanoma Foundation fact sheet



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