HealthDay News — Tanning bed use correlates with a significantly increased risk of melanoma, with a dose-response association noted, as well as an increased risk for those who first use sunbeds before age 35, results of a metaanalysis reveal.

Overall, any tanning bed use was associated with a 20% increased risk for developing melanoma (RR=1.20; 95% CI: 1.08-1.34), Mathieu Boniol, PhD, of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, and colleagues reported in BMJ.

Alarmingly, this risk nearly doubled when tanning bed use began before the age of 35 years (RR=1.87; 95% CI: 1.41 to 2.48).

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“Powerful ultraviolet tanning units may be 10 to 15 times stronger than the midday sunlight on the Mediterranean Sea, and repeated exposure to large amounts of ultraviolet A delivered to the skin in relatively short periods (typically 10 to 20 minutes) constitutes a new experience for humans,” the researchers wrote.

To better understand the melanoma burden associated with tanning bed use, Boniol and colleagues analyzed data from 27 studies and 11,428 cases of melanoma from 18 countries in western and northern Europe.

Among the studies that assessed melanoma risk based on the number of tanning sessions per year, researchers found a 1.8% increase in melanoma risk with each sunbed exposure (RR=1.018; 95% CI: 0.998-1.038)

Based on 13 informative studies, the summary relative risk was 1.87 for first use of sunbeds before age 35 years, with no indication of between-study heterogeneity.

In 2008, in the 15 original member counties of the European Community plus three members of the European Free Trade Association, there were an estimated 3,438 cases of sunbed-attributable melanoma, most of which occurred among women (2,341 cases). Based on this data, the researchers determined that melanoma could be attributed to sunbed use in 5.4% of cases overall, and was associated with 6.9% of all melanoma cases in women and 3.7% of cases in men.

“Melanoma and other skin cancers that are specifically associated with sunbed use are preventable diseases by avoiding exposure to these devices,” the researchers wrote. “Generally, the sunbed industry has not [self-regulated] effectively and has tended to disseminate non-evidence based information, which can deceive consumers.”

They recommended greater restrictions on tanning bed use by individuals younger than 18 to reduce use among this high risk population.

Boniol M et al. BMJ. 2012; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e4757.