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May 29, 2014 07:51 AM EDT

Indoor Tanning Increases Risk of Skin Cancer, Study


University of Minnesota researchers debunked the theory that claimed indoor tanning without burning might lower melanoma risk.

People often get a "base tan" at a tanning salon to prevent getting sunburn and to eventually lower the risk of skin cancer. The researchers, in fact, found that indoor tanning heightens the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"The bottom-line is that tanning is a biological response to damage to the DNA," said study co-author DeAnn Lazovich, an associate professor in the school of public in Minneapolis. "And you're going to get that [ultraviolet light] damage in a tanning booth whether or not you burn," reported.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 68,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year in the United States. Increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from the sun or a sunlamp, inflates the disease risk.

Dr. Jennifer Stein, an assistant professor at the department of dermatology of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said that indoor tanning contains ultraviolet light in higher quantities that damages the skin and ups skin cancer risk.

For the study, the researchers observed 1,167 patients with malignant melanoma and 1,101 cancer-free individuals. None of these participants suffered a burn while tanning indoor. Overall, about 57 percent of the participants had five or more sunburns till date and about 5 percent reported never getting sunburned.

The researchers found that melanoma patients were four times more likely to have undergone indoor tanning than cancer-free individuals. Among these patients, those who never got sunburned used tanning salons at a younger age and more often than individuals who experienced sunburn at some stage of their life.

When researchers focused on participants who never got sunburned, they found that 78 percent of melanoma patients used tanning salons when compared to 40 percent of cancer-free patients.

"Basically, there is no safe way to get tanned," said Lazovich. "Sun protection and avoidance of ultraviolet radiation in any form should be the goal."

The finding supports the conclusions of a 2007 study conducted by a group affiliated with the World Health Organization. The study found that people who used tanning beds before the age of 30 years were 75 percent more likely to suffer from melanoma, WHBL reports.

The finding is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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