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Curr Opin Oncol. 2009 Mar;21(2):144-9. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e3283252fc5.

Indoor ultraviolet tanning and skin cancer: health risks and opportunities.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Cutaneous Biology Research Center, and Melanoma Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



Skin cancer incidence is higher than that of any other human malignancy, and yet one of its root causes [ultraviolet (UV) radiation] is perhaps better understood than any other human carcinogen. The roles of UV radiation exposure and indoor tanning behaviors on skin cancer risk are explored here.


Studies from the past several years have shown a significant association between ever-use of an indoor tanning facility and an increased risk of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The association between indoor tanning and skin cancer is particularly strong among those who first used a tanning facility in early adulthood. Elevated vitamin D levels have been suggested to protect against various internal malignancies and other disease states, but sources of vitamin D that do not require UV exposure are easily available.


Although additional research is needed to understand fully the relationship between UV and skin cancer, it is already clear that indoor tanning bed use represents an avoidable risk factor for melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer - both of which may be lethal. Acting upon this information provides a unique opportunity for protecting the public health.

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