Fake tans boost skin cancer rates
Tanning the old fashioned way, even in cold climates, may be better than using solariums (U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Adminstration)
The popularity of solariums has led to a sharp rise in skin cancer among Swedes on parts of the skin normally covered by clothing - a result that has implications for tanning enthusiasts worldwide.
The study looked at squamous cell carcinomas of the skin (SCC), and distinguished between the more common in situ SCCs (in the epidermis) and 'invasive' SCCs (under the dermis) cancers. Incidences of both types have increased markedly in Sweden, with a large increase in invasive cancers in areas of the body normally covered by clothing.
In a very large-scale study, Dr Kari Hemminki of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and colleagues collected data from the Swedish Cancer Registry from 1961 to 1998, which includes individuals born after 1931 as well as their biological parents - a total of 10.2 million people.
"In summary, our data show a large increase in reported cases of SCC, of which in situ cases have increased drastically," the authors write in the latest issue of Archives of Dermatology. "Among invasive cases, the increase has been largest among covered sites, which also showed the largest cohort effect, suggesting contribution by intentional tanning."
Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (SCC) was the fourth most common cancer in men and women in Sweden in 1998, and has been the most rapidly increasing type of cancer in Sweden in the last 20 years. The annual incidence per 100,000 of population is 30.2 for men and 14.1 for women.
As SCC is most common at ages over 70, the present offspring generation from birth to 66 years is still young for SCC, the authors state. Out of the population, offspring had 1,907 invasive SCCs and fathers and mothers respectively had 12,702 and 7,167. The numbers of patients affected by in situ SCC were 2,666, followed by 13,739 and 13,321 respectively.
But the rise in intentional tanning is not surprising, according to Professor Bruce Armstrong, the head of the school of population health at University of Sydney. "There is not much time in summer [in Scandinavia], so people probably want to be tanned and ready to go."
The tanning industry is unregulated in Australia, although people under the age of 16 are prohibited from using tanning solariums. "I don't know of any data that tell us how extensively people use tanning salons," Armstrong told ABC Science Online.
He said Australia has year-round sunshine and a long summer, so the demand for solariums would be less than in Scandinavia. Much of the research on the possible links between skin cancer and tanning salons has been undertaken in Scandinavia, he added.
Armstrong agreed the problems arising from solariums are only just beginning. The association between tanning salons and cancer has been strongest with younger people, "and in a sense they are just starting to catch up," he said, referring to the lag time between exposure and skin cancers appearing.
The dangers of tanning salons have been suspected until now, but there has not been much conclusive evidence, said Armstrong: "It is likely people with artificial tans also have heavy sun exposure because they would want to be seen outside and tanned, so they would also get sun exposure."
Armstrong would like to see research that quantifies an individual's amount of sun exposure versus their artificial tanning to determine their independent effect.
He told ABC Science Online a paper is about to be published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that shows the most convincing data to date linking melanomas with tanning salons, where the amount of sun exposure has been quantified against tanning salon exposure.
ABC Science Online
Thursday, 24 July 2003
Eur J Dermatol, 2008
Posted January 11, 2011
Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour
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