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What does the latest science say about tanning?

7:04 PM, Apr 10, 2012   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - Missouri and Illinois are taking on teens and tanning.

The Missouri State House is expected to pass a bill requiring parental consent for teens to use tanning beds.

Illinois is also considering an outright ban on teens and tanning.

In this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, Newschannel Five's Kay Quinn talked with a local dermatologist about what the latest science says about tanning.

The latest study came out this month from the Mayo Clinic. It found melanoma increased eightfold among women 18 to 39 and fourfold in men in Olmstead County, Minnesota from 1970 and 2009.

The study did not look at the tanning history of those studied, but the rise of melanoma in younger people is being seen across the country.

The Siteman Cancer Center went a step further, looking at tanning and their cancer rates.

"Here at Siteman we just did a review of our women under the age of 40 that got diagnosed with melanoma and over 50 percent of our patients have used tanning beds which is unbelievably high compared to the over 40 group which was much lower. I think it was something like 10 to 15 percent," said Dr. Lynn Cornelius.

So, what has changed? For one: the type and amount of ultraviolet light in tanning beds.

"When I was growing up and it was sun beds and that sort of thing, it was mostly ultraviolet B which were bad and they could burn you. But now they've intensified the exposure so people can get tanner quicker with ultraviolet a type of exposure," said Dr. Cornelius.

And the ultraviolet A exposure of a tanning bed is typically 10 to 15 times more intense than midday sun.

Keep in mind, any ultraviolet rays, including those from the sun, can raise your risk of skin cancer, so the best bet is to limit exposure. Do that by wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and seeing your doctor about changes to your skin.

The Indoor Tanning Association defends tanning lamps, saying there is no consensus among researchers regarding the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and UV exposure either from the sun or a sun bed.



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