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Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2009 Jul;48(6):614-22. doi: 10.1177/0009922809332589. Epub 2009 Mar 12.

Another duel in the sun: weighing the balances between sun protection, tanning beds, and malignant melanoma.

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School of Public Health and Information Sciences, University of Louisville, Kentucky,



The purpose of this report is to put the dueling factors of risk and prevention for melanoma in perspective for the thoughtful pediatric specialist to facilitate preteen preventive health counseling.


We examined the rate of malignant melanoma among Kentucky residents and compared this rate with indicators of tanning bed prevalence in a large metropolitan area and sunscreen sales from a major distributor. We obtained malignant melanoma annual incidence data from the Kentucky Cancer Registry, which recorded Kentucky population incidence rates over the years 1995 to 2004. The rates reflected 2 malignant melanoma classifications: pre-invasive cancer only, or both invasive and noninvasive cancers combined.


The age-adjusted incidence rate per hundred thousand for combined invasive and pre-invasive malignant melanoma swelled from 21.9 in 1995 to 31.3 in 2004. The respective invasive-only malignant melanoma incidence rates increased less dramatically, from 17.3 to 20.7, during this same 10-year time period. Since 1983, the number of separate tanning bed businesses increased from 1 in 1983 to 119 by the mid-1990s, and then declined to about 74 separate businesses by 2003. Sunscreen sales data is uneven between states and is currently inconclusive.


Although current data cannot draw a precise link between melanoma and the use of tanning beds, the associated risk is implicit, as the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation in tanning bed usage is a well-established melanoma risk factor. In advising patients, the pediatric specialist should consider that melanoma rates are poised as a balance of some known risk factors and a few potential preventive factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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