Health Editor’s Note: Melanomas are cancer of the skin and 90% are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light comes from the sun and also artificial sources, such as tanning beds. According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) tanning lamps and beds give the highest risk for causing cancer. Carcinogenic to humans, the same as being exposed to plutonium. Nasty business because people do not do well when exposed to plutonium and other forms of radium. The use of tanning beds increases the chances of all types of skin cancers, not just melanomas.
Malignant melanoma or melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) in the skin, mouth, intestines, or eye. For men melanomas mostly occurs on the back and for women, on the legs. I have an earlier article on melanomas that you might want to review.
Melanoma is the most common cancer in the 25 to 29 year old range and the second most common form of cancer for those aged 15 to 29. Melanoma is the number one cause of cancer death in women 25-30 years old and the number 2 cause of cancer death in women 30-35 years old.
You do not have to drive in your car very long before you zoom past a tanning salon offering all types of sessions at “great” prices. The tanning industry will even tell potential customers that Vitamin D should be obtained from the use of a tanning bed. For those who do not already know, UVB radiation is needed so the body can produce vitamin D while most tanning beds emit UVA radiation.
In actuality one sunburn that blisters your skin can double your chances for developing a melanoma. The use of tanning beds before 30 drives that risk up by 75% and the occasional use of a tanning bed triples the risk of developing melanoma. Just do not use tanning beds and if you are in the sun apply frequent, liberal amounts of sun screen on all areas exposed to the sun, use hats, stay under umbrellas on the beach, etc….Carol
Median time to diagnosis of second primary melanoma was 225 days
By Pam Harrison, contributing writer for MedPage Today
Frequent use of indoor tanning beds significantly increased the risk of users developing a second primary melanoma compared with non-users, and they did so far more quickly than non-users, according to a retrospective study.
In an analysis involving 434 patients with melanoma, 56% of patients exposed to artificial ultraviolet radiation (arUVR) were diagnosed with a second primary melanoma within 1 year of their first diagnosis compared with 18% of patients who had not been exposed to arUVR (P=0.011), reported Lynn Cornelius, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues.
The median time to diagnosis of the second primary melanoma was 225 days in patients who had been exposed to arUVR compared with 3.5 years for those who had not (P=0.027), they wrote in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“Tanning beds expose persons to arUVR with intensities up to 10X that of natural sunlight,” they stated. “This study highlights the need for patient education regarding the risks of artificial tanning and the importance of vigilant surveillance for melanoma recurrence and additional primary melanomas.”
Patients were seen at a multidisciplinary melanoma clinic at the authors’ institution, and were asked to complete a melanoma patient questionnaire that included questions on sun exposure and photoprotection measures. In a later version of the questionnaire, investigators also asked patients how many hours they estimated they had been exposed to arUVR: either 1 to 50 hours or >50 hours.
Of the 434 patients included in the analysis, 131 were ages ≤40 years of and 303 were ages >40. Over three-quarters of patients in the younger cohort were female (P<0.0001).
More women (82%) reported being exposed to arUVR than men (18%), and reported ever using a tanning bed (P<0.0001). Age also factored into tanning bed use such that the likelihood an individual would be exposed to arUVR from tanning beds dropped by about 16% with each 5-year increase in age.
Also, 42% of patients in the younger cohort reported they had used a tanning bed at some point in their lifetime versus 17% of patients ages >40 (P<0.0001). Patients ages ≤40 were also more likely to report high levels of arUVR exposure than older patients, with some 29% of the younger cohort reporting a lifetime exposure to arUVR of either >50 hours or >100 hours compared with only 9% of patients ages >40.
“Overall, the probability of tanning bed use was highest among patients with melanoma diagnoses at earlier ages (40 or younger), but the rising trend persisted in all … age categories,” they stated.
For example, when adjusted for age, sex, race, and melanoma stage, the odds that participants had been exposed to arUVR from tanning beds increased by 48% for each additional primary melanoma diagnosed. However, tanning bed users reported that they were more likely to use sunscreen (73% versus 57% for nonusers), and most reported using sunscreen always or most of the time (P=0.0093).
This might be explained by the fact that many tanning beds users apparently believe that indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning, and thus are more likely to apply sunscreen when exposed to natural sunlight.
“Our study is the first to demonstrate that regardless of age, patients who had second primary melanoma diagnoses were more likely to have had arUVR exposure,” the investigators stated.
They also suggested that because patients in the study who used tanning beds were more likely to be fair-skinned than non-users, “the increased arUVR intensity of tanning beds, as opposed to UVR from ambient sunlight in a physiologically vulnerable patient population (fair skinned persons) at an early age contributes to our findings of decreased tumor lag time.”
Study limitations included the fact that it was carried out in a single geographic area, and with a relatively small sample size.
Marc Glashofer, MD, of The Dermatology Group in West Orange, New Jersey, noted that the actual cause of melanoma is still being worked out because some melanomas can occur on non sun-exposed areas of the skin, suggesting that genetic factors may be at play as well as UVR exposure.
Nevertheless, tanning bed use is a strong driver of melanoma risk, as there is still a strong cultural drive for young, fair-skinned females, to arrive at a big social event sporting a deep tan, for which they have spent expensive sessions in a tanning salon acquiring.
“Even with us having more data on the carcinogenic effects of excessive UVR — even with that message being out there — you are dealing with patients in their late teens and early 20s who still have that, “I’m going to live forever mentality,'” Glashofer, who was not involved in the study, observed.
Glashofer said he tells his young tanning bed users that they are actually paying to get cancer by exposing themselves to arUVR. “The message gets through to some, but not everyone,” he said.
However, the message seems to be getting through to state legislators, as some states have been progressively moving towards raising the age of consent to permit tanning bed use. But the tanning bed industry has a strong lobby who are actively trying to dissuade the same state legislators from restricting tanning bed use, he pointed out.
Cornelius and co-authors, as well as Glashofer, disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.