Previous studies have linked indoor tanning with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. But the new study extends these findings to the more common but less serious skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Specifically, people who used tanning beds were 67% more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 29% more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than people who never used them. This risk was highest among people who started to tan before their 25th birthday.
Researchers reviewed 12 studies in medical literature published since 1985. They estimate that indoor tanning is responsible for more than 170,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers in the United States each year -- and many more worldwide.
“Although these types of skin cancers are not deadly, they are very common and expensive to treat,” says researcher Eleni Linos, MD, DrPH. She is an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. The study is published online in the journal BMJ.
So with all the bad press, why are people still going tanning? “People go to tanning beds because they like the feeling of the beds and like to look tan, and don’t understand the risks involved,” she says.