The International Agency for Research on Cancer moved tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category (carcinogenic to humans) according to a new report.
Previously, the agency had classified sunlamps and tanning beds as “probably” carcinogenic. The move puts the devices a notch higher in terms of risk. It also echoes calls by some U.S. experts to place tougher warnings and restrictions on tanning bed use.
“The use of tanning beds can be deleterious to your health and we hope to encourage governments to formulate restrictions and regulations for the use of tanning beds,” said report coauthor Beatrice Secretan, from the Cancer Monograph Working Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France. The Agency is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The first priority of the WHO is to restrict the use of tanning beds by those under 18, Secretan said. “If controls are put in place it will reduce the risks of the users or deter people from using them,” she said.
One U.S. expert agreed. “This new report confirms and extends the prior recommendation of the American Cancer Society that the use of tanning beds is dangerous to your health, and should be avoided,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. The report is published in the August issue of The Lancet Oncology.
In June, scientists from nine countries concluded that the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when use of tanning beds and sunlamps begins before 30 years of age. In addition, several studies provided evidence of a link between the use of UV-emitting tanning devices and melanoma of the eye.
Young women in particular are the heaviest users of tanning beds, and are at the greatest risk of causing harm to themselves. This report also puts to rest the argument that tanning with UVA light is safe.
The FDA currently requires tanning salons to direct all customers to wear protective eye goggles and advises consumers to limit their exposure to tanning devices, and avoid them if you have certain medical conditions such as lupus or diabetes or are susceptible to cold sores.
In addition, the FDA requires labels on these devices that warn of skin aging, skin cancer and eye injury. However, in 2007 the FDA began a review of these warnings and is considering strengthening its warnings about the risk of skin cancer and eye damage, according to the agency.