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Survey Shows Dangers of Tanning Not Hitting Home

TUESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Although studies have shown that indoor tanning raises your risk of the deadly skin cancer melanoma by a staggering 75 percent, a new survey reveals that young women continue to use tanning beds at an alarming rate.

In the past year, 32 percent of the 3,800 young women questioned in the American Academy of Dermatology survey said they had visited a tanning salon. In fact, 25 percent of those who tanned admitted to soaking up ultraviolet (UV) rays from indoor beds at least once a week, on average. Moreover, 81 percent of the respondents also tanned outdoors, either frequently or occasionally.

Young women were the most at risk, according to the survey. Specifically, 18- to 22-year-olds were almost twice as likely as 14- to 17-year-olds to have use a tanning bed.

"Exposure to UV radiation is the leading risk factor for skin cancer, yet -- despite this knowledge -- droves of teens and young women are flocking to tanning bed facilities and beaches or pools to tan every year," academy president and dermatologist Dr. Ronald L. Moy said in a news release from the academy.

"The challenge is that teens have access to indoor tanning salons on almost every corner. A recent survey of 116 U.S. cities found an average of 42 tanning salons per city, which means tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbucks or McDonald's. We are very concerned that this tanning behavior will lead to a continued increase in the incidence of skin cancer in young people and, ultimately, more untimely deaths from this devastating disease," Moy added.

Melanoma rates have been increasing for the past three decades, particularly among young, white women, the academy noted. If trends continue, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. The disturbing numbers prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization's International Agency of Research on Cancer panel to declare UV radiation from both the sun and artificial light sources as a known carcinogen.

"Our survey underscores the importance of educating young women about the very real risks of tanning, as melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer -- is increasing faster in females 15 to 29 years old than in males of the same age group," said Moy. "In my practice, I have had patients -- young women with a history of using tanning beds -- who have died from melanoma."

More information

The Skin Cancer Foundation has more on the dangers of tanning.

-- Mary Beth Dallas

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, May 2, 2011

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