No such thing as a 'safe' suntan

No such thing as a 'safe' suntan

News and Articles
Sep 18 2008

Skin specialists are warning that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ suntan.

Three review papers from leading researchers in the fields of cell biology, dermatology and epidemiology have looked closely at the effects on skin of UV radiation, including that from indoor tanning beds.

They have reached the conclusion that there may be no such thing as a ‘safe’ tan based on ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

The reviews as well as highlighting the need for greater research, call for the use of tanning beds by under-18s to be banned, along with any publicity that claims that tanning beds are safe.

Experts say exposure to UV radiation from sunbathing or using an indoor tanning beds, affects the skin in a number of ways, including causing DNA damage, photoaging (damage to the skin from chronic exposure to sunlight) and skin cancer – UV radiation is the most ubiquitous carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) for humans, in whom skin is the organ most commonly affected by cancer.

They say although more research is required, research suggests that indoor tanning beds, which are used most by young women, are linked to an increased risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and they do not support the idea that tanning beds are safe.

Dermatologist Dr. David E Fisher from the Massachusetts General Hospital, who is President of the Society of Melanoma Research, says both tanning and skin cancer seem to begin with the same event – DNA damage caused by UV exposure – which suggest a ‘safe’ tan with UV may be a physical impossibility.

The specialists say ultraviolet radiation exposure represents one of the most avoidable causes of cancer risk and mortality in man and while genetic and other factors undoubtedly contribute importantly to skin cancer risk, the role of UV is incontrovertible, and efforts to confuse the public, particularly for purposes of economic gain by the indoor tanning industry, should be vigorously combated for the public health.

The other two papers in the series have been written by Dr. Marianne Berwick, an epidemiologist at the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Centre, and Dr. Dorothy C Bennett, a dermatologist at the Division of Basic Medical Sciences, St George’s, University of London, UK.

The papers are published in the October issue of Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, the official journal of The International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies (IFPCS) and the Society for Melanoma Research.


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