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Review links tanning beds to higher risk of skin cancer

Nearly 2.3 million teenagers in the United States tan indoors annually, and with prom season right around the corner, the temptation to tan is even greater. But with the big night fast approaching, new research has found that the use of sunbeds during a person's teens and 20s is linked to an increase in melanoma risk, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer conducted a thorough review of several studies associating tanning bed use and melanoma risk. The researchers showed that the use of sunbeds under the age of 35 can increase melanoma risk by 75 percent. "This new research substantiates what we've believed for years about the danger of indoor tanning," said Dr. Perry Robins, president of the Skin Cancer Foundation. "It clearly increases the risk of skin cancer, especially in young women, who are the biggest users. Perhaps people will finally start to listen now that this study and other recent research provides some science to back up the belief."

If the threat of melanoma isn't enough to scare teens away from tanning booths, they should know that 90 percent of visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UV tanning accelerates the signs of aging, including wrinkles, leathering and fine lines, which can be seen as early as in one's 20s. Yet many teens will still desire a bronzed glow for prom. One safe alternative is so-called "sunless tanners," also known as "self-tanning lotions."

•Sunless tanners deliver a perfectly safe tan that typically lasts for three to five days. Unlike tanning beds, they don't involve dangerous ultraviolet rays, they are made with completely harmless common ingredients. For a list of recommended products that will give you a sunless glow, check The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation list at

•Don't be misled by products that sound like self-tanning lotions. "Tanning amplifiers," "tan accelerators," "tanning promoters," "tanning enhancers," and worst of all, "tanning pills." Many of these products interact with the sun to create the tan, so they actually end up exacerbating the damage done to your skin.

•Be sure to wear sunscreen. Even if a sunless tanner has an SPF rating, the sun-protective abilities won't last longer than two hours. So remember to apply an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen in addition to the self-tanner.

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