Tanning beds and skin cancer

A sunbed, with lights off.
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The report released by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, moving UV tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category – ‘carcinogenic to humans.’, is being hyped by mainstream media today as if we were all dropping like flies. The added headline, that the risks are increased by 75% through the use of tanning beds achieving nothing more than a more prominent headline.

Whilst the report is a welcome addition to research in to the effects of tanning beds, it is only by looking behind the headlines, that the ‘risk’ factor can be assessed.

The latest information from Skin cancer – UK shows the incidence of melanoma skin cancer running at 2.6 per 100 000 population, in other words 0.0026% of the population are affected.

To put it in to context with an activity which many of us undertake:
2 042 people died of melanoma skin cancer, 1 500 car drivers and adult passengers die in road crashes.

Number of new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (UK 2006)
Males Females Persons
44,684 36,998 81,682

Rate per 100,000 population*
121.7 75.5 94.9

Number of deaths from non-melanoma skin cancer (UK 2007)
334 243 577

Rate per 100,000 population*
0.8 0.4 0.6

Number of new cases of malignant melanoma (UK 2006)
4,803 5,607 10,410
Rate per 100,000 population* 14.3 15.4 14.7

Number of deaths from malignant melanoma (UK 2007)
1,104 938 2,042

Rate per 100,000 population*
3.1 2.1 2.6

Five-year survival rate for malignant melanoma (for patients diagnosed 2000-2001**, England & Wales)
78% 91%

*age-standardised to the European population **period estimates

It is the sixth most common form of cancer in women and the eighth most common form of cancer in men.

While the media love to kick up a good storm, to raise their ratings and politicians always love a reason to regulate, let’s have some perspective.

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2 Responses “Tanning beds and skin cancer”

  1. complex post. upright one detail where I quarrel with it. I am emailing you in detail.

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