Health Care Management Chair at Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud and cancer survivor
Those who know me know I have a passion for educating the public on skin cancer. My students roll their eyes when, as a health care instructor, I once again remind them to use sunscreen on their vacations or summer days. I have no problem telling my personal story of battling malignant melanoma.
I think sometimes malignant melanoma and other skin cancers get overlooked. They are not glamorous cancers, or they are perceived as not being serious. Therefore, there are no special months dedicated to skin cancers. There are no three-day walks, no colored ribbons or other items, and it is very seldom discussed in the media. However, malignant melanoma in particular can be deadly. When it begins to spread, it spreads quickly, and it affects the brain and other internal organs and the patient frequently dies. In addition, there are not good chemotherapy drugs available to effect a remission or a cure.
Just today, I found an article posted on KARE-11.com that discusses a report that links tanning beds to increased skin cancer. This is not necessarily a new finding. In fact, tanning beds increasingly are being found as the culprit for causing skin cancers. This current article discusses an online report published by the British online medical journal BMJ.
According to the report, more than 170,000 cases of skin cancer annually are linked to indoor tanning. Just think:170,000 new cases every year. That may not seem like much, but these are new cases just from using a tanning bed. Most people I talk to think they are actually doing a good thing to go to the tanning bed and get a little color before heading off on vacation. This is not true. In fact, because the UV radiation is much closer to you in a tanning bed, it can actually be more dangerous, and this report lends some credence to that.
The report states that people who have ever used a tanning bed have a 29% greater chance of developing basal-cell carcinoma, and a 67% greater chance of getting squamous-cell carcinoma, than those who have never tanned indoors. While both of these cancers are generally not life-threatening, they can be serious, recurrent, and sometimes lead to malignant melanoma. This new information comes on top of previous reports that have already linked malignant melanoma to tanning beds.
In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, has labeled UV radiation from tanning beds a Class 1 carcinogen. This is the same classification as tobacco and asbestos. For this reason, many states are now looking at banning minors from using tanning beds, while Brazil has banned indoor tanning altogether.
In all fairness, the Indoor Tanning Association disputes this report and believes that indoor tanning is actually healthy because it provides needed vitamin D. While it is true that we all need vitamin D, there are other ways to get this important vitamin than lying in a tanning bed.