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Cancer risk rises if women used sunbeds in youth

Women who use tanning salons have an increased risk of skin cancer, according to a study that adds to evidence that baking in a tan bed can be as bad as baking under the sun.

The study by Harvard Medical School, looked at data from nearly 730,000 nurses followed for 20 years and found that women who used tanning beds in their youth were more likely to develop skin cancer -- basal cell carcinoma in particular.

Though many studies have linked tanning beds to a higher skin cancer risk, the link to basal cell carcinoma, by far the most common form of skin cancer, have been inconsistent.


"We investigated whether frequency of tanning bed use during high school/college and at ages 25 to 36 years were associated with a risk of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma," wrote medic Jiali Han.

"Our data provide evidence for a relationship between tanning bed use and the risk of skin cancers and the association is stronger for patients with a younger age at exposure."

Women who used tanning beds at least four times per year between high school and age 35 were 15pc more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than non-users.

There were similar risks tied to melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

But with melanoma the finding was not statistically significant, which means it could be due to chance.

Of the 730,000 women, just 349 were diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, during the study.

An important finding was that the risk seemed to climb with just a few trips to the tanning salon each year.