Tanning Beds Pose Skin Cancer Risks

Despite marketing efforts by the tanning bed industry that use of tanning beds can provide the healthful benefit of increasing vitamin D levels, researchers claim that “there is absolutely no justification for indoor tanning,” citing the associated risk of skin cancer and the availability of vitamin D from sources other than UV exposure. These results were presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States. The majority of skin cancers are caused by excessive sun exposure. Although most skin cancers are slow-growing and are associated with low death rates, a more-aggressive form, melanoma, can be one of the most deadly types of cancer if it is detected once it has spread from its site of origin. As well, incidence of melanoma and associated death rates have been rising. As a result, efforts are also on the rise to increase public awareness about protection against the sun’s harmful rays and about the importance of undergoing skin examinations for early detection of skin cancer.

Vitamin D is an important component to bone health and has recently been a focus of research into its relationship with various types of cancers. Higher levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer.

Vitamin D is made available in the body through sunlight exposure, which stimulates the synthesis of vitamin D in the body, or through a person’s diet. The tanning bed industry has been promoting tanning bed use with claims it can stimulate the synthesis of vitamin D, exposing tanning bed users to vitamin D’s healthful benefits. Tanning beds, however, have also been implicated in increased rates of skin cancer.

Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York recently presented an overview of tanning bed use at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. The presenter stated that the increased risks of skin cancer associated with exposure to tanning beds outweigh their potential positive effects of stimulating vitamin D synthesis. Furthermore, individuals can obtain necessary vitamin D through diet or vitamins without increasing their risks for developing skin cancer.

Individuals are encouraged speak with their healthcare provider regarding skin examinations and limiting their exposure to sunlight and tanning beds to reduce their risk of skin cancer. As well, those concerned about increasing their levels of vitamin D may inquire about dietary and supplemental sources.

Reference: Spencer JM. Proceedings from the 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. February 2008. SYM302.


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