Once thought safer than outdoor sunbathing, indoor tanning can produce 10 to 15 times as much ultraviolet (UV) radiation as the midday sun, the study authors noted.
“Our findings suggest that children and young adults who seek indoor tanning may be especially vulnerable to developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, at a young age,” said lead researcher Margaret Karagas, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H.
The study looked at people aged 50 and younger who were diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer. While usually treatable, this type of skin cancer can be highly disfiguring if not caught early, and basal cell tumors have a high rate of recurrence. Until recently, basal cell skin cancer was considered a cancer of later life, the researchers said.
The investigators found that indoor tanning was associated with developing skin cancer at an early age. Moreover, the strongest link was seen among those whose first exposure to indoor tanning occurred when they were teens or young adults.
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