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Eur J Cancer. 2004 Nov;40(16):2367-76.

Perspectives in melanoma prevention: the case of sunbeds.

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Unit of Epidemiology, Prevention and Screening, Jules Bordet Institute, Bd of Waterloo 121, Brussels 1000, Belgium.


The incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma (melanoma) and of basal cell carcinoma is still increasing in most fair-skinned populations. The fashion of intermittent exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiations is considered the main cause of this increase. In 20 years time, tan acquisition through exposure to artificial sources of UV radiations has become frequent among fair-skinned adolescents and young adults. Modern sunbeds are powerful sources of UV radiations that do not exist in the nature, and repeated exposures to high doses of UVA constitute a new phenomenon in humans. A large prospective cohort study on 106,379 Norwegian and Swedish women conducted between 1991 and 1999 has provided evidence for a significant, moderate increase in melanoma risk among regular sunbed users. Failure of past case-control studies to document with consistency the sunbed-melanoma association was probably due to a too short latency period between sunbed use and melanoma diagnosis, and to too few subjects with high total durations of sunbed use. Regulations of sunbed installation, operation and use should become standardised across the 25 European Union countries. Enforcement of regulations in tanning parlours remains inadequate. In contrast, the existence of regulations is presented by many tanning salon operators as a guarantee that sunbed use is safe. We stress the need for the control of information disseminated by the "tanning industry" on suppositions that sunbed use is safer than sun exposure, and on the hypothetical health benefits of tanning. New fluorescent UV lamps are proposed that have a spectrum similar to the midday sun. Given the known association between intermittent sun exposure and melanoma, public-health authorities should reconsider the soundness of the commercialisation of these lamps.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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