"The growing popularity of artificial tanning (for non medical reasons) among adolescents and young adults is cause for concern," says first author Margaret R. Karagas, PhD, a DMS epidemiologist who is associate professor of community and family medicine and associate director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences at Dartmouth.
She published the findings in the Feb. 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute with co-authors Stephen Spencer, MD, DMS professor of medicine and of surgery; Martin Weinstock, MD, PhD, Brown Medical School professor of dermatology and epidemiology, and Dartmouth researchers Virginia Stannard, RN, MEd, Leila Mott, MS, and Mary Jo Slattery, RN, MS.
Millions of Americans visit tanning salons each year, and the majority of users are adolescents or young adult women. Although some studies suggest that tanning device use might contribute to the incidence of melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, results to date are not definitive.
Few studies have looked at the association between tanning devices and the more prevalent skin cancers: basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, which together are the most common malignancy in humans. Karagas and colleagues have previously reported an increasing trend in the incidence rates of these cancers.
"We know that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure that comes from the sun is a major cause of skin cancer. Tanning lamps mimic sunlight and provide such an intense, concentrated dose of UVR, we would predict that people who use these devices may get skin cancers," Karagas said. "Also, tanning lamp users often get a burn like a sunburn, and sunburns are linked to the risk of all three skin cancers: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma."