Indoor tanning has remained popular since the 1970's, especially among adolescents and young adults. As a result, incidence rates of early-onset basal cell carcinoma continue to rise, especially in women.
In a July 2014 Pediatrics article (published online June 23), "Early-Onset Basal Cell Carcinoma and Indoor Tanning: A Population-Based Study," researchers studied data on 657 patients with newly diagnosed cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 452 control subjects 50 years of age or younger, who participated in the New Hampshire Skin Cancer Study.
Information was collected on type of indoor tanning device used (sunlamps, tanning beds, or booths), and proportion of time spent outdoors in childhood. Participants with early-onset BCC were more likely to experience a sunburn rather than a suntan during the first hour of sun exposure in summer as compared to controls. A higher proportion of patients with early-onset BCC reported indoor tanning with a tanning lamp compared to controls, and the association was present for all types of indoor tanning devices. In about 40% percent of cases, BCCs were located on sites other than the head and neck such as the trunk, and the association with indoor tanning was stronger for tumors occurring on these sites.
Once thought of as a "safe" way to tan, indoor tanning products can produce 10 to 15 times as much UV radiation as the midday sun, and early exposure to indoor tanning was associated with an increased likelihood of developing BCC at a young age in this study.
Study authors agree with medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, who recommend banning or limiting access to commercial tanning facilities among minors.