"Some people feel the need to tan to compete. My advice to them is: don't do it with a sun bed, don't even go get the tan outside," said Vincent Cogliano, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs program, a World Health Organization unit, in comments yesterday to Bloomberg News.
Researchers at IARC, which is based in France, found that use of a tanning bed raised the risk of developing melanoma—the most common form of skin cancer—by 75 per cent in tanning enthusiasts who commenced active tanning before the age of 30.
That statistic was driven home for Mary Ann Gerber and Mallory Hughes, two women under 25 who were profiled this morning on ABC's Good Morning America (GMA). Gerber, 24, began tanning as a teenager and described herself as a 'tan-a-holic.' Hughes told GMA that she limited her tanning to special events (such as her prom), but the 23-year-old admitted that she loved tanning. "I was happy, I felt skinny, it was good," Hughes said.
Tragically both women were diagnosed with skin cancer prior to their 25th birthday. Gerber was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma. "I have a 50 per cent chance of survival," Gerber told GMA. "I almost killed myself over a stupid tan."
The study published yesterday in the British medical journal analyzed about two dozen existing studies and concluded that tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation was on par with cigarettes, arsenic and the sun itself.
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ACS estimates that 68,720 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year and 8,650 patients will die from it.
IARC researchers said UV-A rays are now deemed certain to cause skin cancer. UV-B rays had already been classified in the most dangerous category.
The radiation and the beds were reclassified to reflect new scientific evidence, Cogliano said. Tanning beds were previously classified as "probably carcinogenic."
Meanwhile the indoor tanning industry continues to promote the safety of indoor tanning when used correctly and cites the health benefits of vitamin D. The industry holds that the comparison to cigarettes is misguided and amounts to fear mongering.