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Tanning beds are as deadly as arsenic, cancer study says

By Maria Cheng
Associated Press / July 29, 2009

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LONDON - International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, deeming both to be as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas.

For years, scientists have described tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation as “probable carcinogens.’’

A new analysis of about 20 studies concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. Experts also found that all types of ultraviolet radiation caused worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic. Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was thought to be lethal.

The new classification means tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation are definite causes of cancer, alongside tobacco, the hepatitis B virus, and chimney sweeping, among others.

The research was published today online in the medical journal Lancet Oncology, by experts at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization.

“People need to be reminded of the risks of sunbeds,’’ said Vincent Cogliano, one of the cancer researchers. “We hope the prevailing culture will change so teens don’t think they need to use sunbeds to get a tan.’’

Most lights used in tanning beds give off mainly ultraviolet radiation, which cause skin and eye cancer, according to the International Agency for Cancer Research.

Previous studies found younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to get melanoma than people who have never used them.