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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 10, 2007

Cancer Specialists Issue Warning About Indoor Tanning Risks

Now that indoor tanning sessions are probably beginning to peak, cancer specialists say the results of a new international study show the practice is clearly associated with an increased risk for skin cancers and does not provide any positive health benefits.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) assessed the available evidence relating to the health effects of the use of artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation through the use of indoor tanning facilities. The IARC working group reached what it called "a number of clear conclusions." These include:

-- When people use indoor tanning beds for the first time during their teens and 20s, their risk for melanoma increases by 75 percent.

-- The risk of squamous cell skin cancer also increases among people who first use indoor tanning beds as teenagers.

-- The use of tanning beds also seems to adversely affect the skin's immune response and possibly that of the eyes, leading to an increased risk for both skin and eye cancer.

-- Indoor UV exposure does not provide any positive health benefits.

"The IARC working group said that artificial tanning provides little, if any, protection against sun damage to the skin, nor does the use of indoor tanning facilities offer protection against vitamin D deficiency," said John Lowe, Ph.D., associate director for Population Science at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

Peter Doyle, M.D., director of the IARC, recommended that strong consideration be given to restricting access of minors and young adults to indoor tanning facilities.

Skin health specialists say the IARC's warning against indoor tanning does not mean that it is safe to tan outdoors.

"We know for a fact that excessive exposure to UV radiation, either outdoors or indoors, increases a person's risk for certain types of skin cancer," said Marta VanBeek, M.D., UI assistant professor of dermatology and a dermatologist at UI Hospitals and Clinics. "Limiting exposure to UV rays, combined with other measures such as the use of sunscreens and wearing protective clothing, reduces that risk."

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. The disease is occurring more often around the world, and the number of cases in the most affected areas doubles every 10 to 15 years.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading edge research and educating the public about cancer.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,