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Controversial Study Says Tanning Beds Could Reduce Mesothelioma Risk

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The CDC says that in 2014, (the most recent year numbers are available), nearly 77,000 people were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin, including more than 45,400 men and nearly 31,300 women. More than 9,000 people died from melanomas of the skin, including more than 6,100 men and over 3,100 women.

Skin cancer is caused by Ultraviolet (UV – UVA and UVB) rays, most commonly from sunlight. However, indoor tanning exposes users to UV rays as well, which the CDC says can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer.

Though the link between tanning salons and skin cancer is well documented, the FDA estimates that about 30 million Americans still use indoor tanning beds each year, including 2.3 million teens. Now, a team of researchers says they have discovered another group that could potentially join the millions of indoor tanners across America, but for vastly different reasons. The team claims that indoor tanning could reduce the risk of other cancers such as colorectal, bladder, and lung cancer, which share a number of common characteristics with malignant mesothelioma.

In the study, the team reinforced the fact that indoor tanning is associated with a number of skin cancers. However, “its favorable effects on vitamin D status may bear some underestimated and currently unexplored health benefits,” wrote the team.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in a limited number of foods, the concentration of which largely depends on UVB exposure in humans.

“A strong, graded, and inverse association has been documented between serum vitamin D and the risk of developing certain types of malignancy, especially colorectal, breast, lung, bladder, and kidney cancers.” Further, “the overall mortality from any type of cancer is also apparently lower in subjects with increased values of serum vitamin D. Both genomic and non-genomic mechanisms have been identified to support the anticancer effects of vitamin D.”

Notably, “UVB radiation emitted from indoor tanning devices is effective to linearly increase the serum vitamin D concentration, up to twofold. Therefore, some favorable effects against the risk of developing many human diseases, including non-skin cancers, cannot be excluded at first glance, although they may not be only linked to vitamin D status. Further large, prospective or randomized studies should be hence planned to definitely establish whether the unfavorable effects of indoor tanning exposure on skin cancers may be outweighed by the still unexplored benefits attributable to amelioration of vitamin D status. 

Though the study has positive notes, tanning of any kind is still considered dangerous. Until further studies have been conducted to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks, tanning for cancer prevention is not recommended.

 

Sources

Lippi, G., G. Cervellin, and E. Danese. "Indoor Tanning a Gianus Bifrons: Vitamin D and Human Cancer." PubMed.gov. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NLM, NIH), 08 Dec. 2017. Web. 25 Jan. 2018.

"Skin Cancer." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), 07 June 2017. Web. 25 Jan. 2018.

Szabo, Liz. "Tanning Beds Used by More than a Third, Study Finds." USA Today News. Gannett 2018, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 25 Jan. 2018.