MONDAY, Oct. 24, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Roughly 10 percent of Americans continue to use indoor tanning beds, but new research suggests that doing so increases their risk for three common skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
In conducting the study, researchers tracked the tanning bed use of more than 73,000 nurses -- first during high school and college, and then when the women were between 25 and 35 years of age.
The study found that tanning beds increased skin cancer risk over time, with a "dose-response effect." That means the more visits to the tanning salon, the higher the woman's risk for skin cancer.
Compared with women who didn't use tanning beds, the risk for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma jumped 15 percent for every four visits to an indoor tanning bed each year. The risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, also increased by 11 percent.
Exposure in youth seemed most hazardous. "Use during high school/college had a stronger effect on the increased risk for basal cell carcinoma compared with use during ages 25 to 35," noted study author Dr. Mingfeng Zhang, a research fellow in the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston in a news release.
Numerous studies conducted over the past few years have shown strong associations between tanning bed use and skin cancer. In March of 2010, a advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended a ban on indoor tanning by minors, and last February the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement supporting such a ban.
The study authors agreed that the findings have public health implications for prevention of all three types of skin cancer.
"[They] can be used to warn the public against future use of tanning beds and to promote restrictions on the indoor tanning industry by policymakers," said Zhang.
The researchers said they plan to investigate the link between skin cancer and tanning bed use over a longer timeframe.
The study was slated for presentation on Monday at the International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research. Findings presented at medical meetings have not undergone peer review and are usually considered preliminary.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides more information on the dangers of indoor tanning.