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Many young, white women frequently tan indoors

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More than one in every four young, white U.S. women uses an indoor tanning facility at least once a year, according to a new study.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta found that between 25 and 30 percent of young, white women reported using an indoor tanning facility in the last year.

"Among this population indoor tanning is widespread and because of the association between indoor tanning and cancer, reducing indoor tanning is important," Gery Guy Jr., the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

Previous research, Guy and his colleagues write in JAMA Internal Medicine, has found that tanning before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, by up to 75 percent.

Tanning before the age of 25 up to doubles the risk.

Melanoma is most common among whites, who have a lifetime risk of about one case in every 50 people, according to the American Cancer Society.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed information from a 2011 survey of high school students and a 2010 survey of adults between the ages of 18 and 34.

"There haven't been many previous estimates just looking at the non-Hispanic, white population. For the adults, there's really no data to compare it to," Guy said.

Overall, he and his colleagues found that just over 29 percent of white high school girls said they had used an indoor tanning facility in the past 12 months and about 17 percent said they had tanned indoors at least 10 times in the past year.

Among white women between the ages of 18 and 34, about 25 percent said they had used an indoor tanning facility during the past year and about 15 percent reported frequent usage.

"These findings showing such high rates of indoor tanning in the population reinforce the importance of education efforts in young adults to reduce the risk of skin cancer," Guy said.

"We should be at the forefront of educating parents and consumers of tanning beds about the risks associated with ultraviolet radiation," Dr. Brundha Balaraman, of the Division of Dermatology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told Reuters Health in an email. Currently, 33 states limit the use of tanning beds for minors under the age of 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That includes California and Vermont, which ban the use of the devices for minors.

Balaraman, who has studied indoor tanning use but was not involved with the new research, said in addition to laws and education, regulation of tanning devices may be effective.

"Tanning devices should be elevated to a Class II or III category for medical devices, which would at least require regulatory oversight of manufacturers," she wrote, adding that tanning beds are currently Class I medical devices, the same category that covers Band-Aids and tongue depressors.

Guy and his colleagues write that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed reclassifying tanning devices as moderate-risk devices.

"I think it's important that multi-level, comprehensive approaches are taken, such as the FDA's proposed changes, counseling that's been effective and changing social norms," Guy said.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/MbBLb9 JAMA Internal Medicine, online August 19, 2013.

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