Cancer Risks Exposed for Tanning Beds

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The pursuit of that summer glow could lead to cancer in the long run according to new research from international cancer experts Wednesday.

The report finds that tanning beds could be as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas and that the younger the user the more dangerous the tanning beds are. Experts say that tanning beds are among the leading cancer risks, with tobacco and the Hepatitis B virus.

Researchers found if tanning beds are used before the age of 30 the risk for skin cancer jumps by 75 percent. This is a troubling discovery considering the vast majority of tanning salon patrons in the U.S. are young women between the ages of 16 to 29.

"I like being tan," tanning bed user Lauren Lambe said. "I think I look better."  

Lambe began tanning when she was 15 for special occasions. She said the new findings are eye-opening but not enough to keep her away from the salon. 

"I think it's one of those kinds of risks that you think will never happen to you," she said. "That's kind of the mindset that I have."

That is why activists are calling for Congress to take action. Currently only 29 states have laws related to tanning. Salons are mostly left to police themselves. 

Sarah Woolnough of Cancer Research U.K. said the organization would like to see added protection for young people.

"We'd like to see [those] under 18 banned from using sunbeds," she said.

Tanning bed companies say there is no proven link between the responsible use of their products and cancer, but critics disagree.

The increase in young women using tanning beds is tracking with another troubling trend. The National Cancer Institute reports the rate of new cases of malignant melanoma among young women has doubled since 1980. The rate among young men has remained the same.

*Original broadcast July 29, 2009.

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.