The World Health Organization warns that indoor tanning does carry increased risk of skin cancer, skin aging and eye damage. In a report released in 2003, the WHO noted that indoor tanning is a billion-dollar-a-year industry that has not shown "significant capacity to self-regulate effectively." The report says "consequences of regular sunbed use could include pain and suffering, early death and disfigurement, as well as substantial costs to national health systems for screening, treating and monitoring skin cancer patients."
The WHO has called for the tanning bed industry to face stricter regulations. It has also called for a ban on the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the arm of the WHO that co-ordinates and conducts research on the causes of human cancers, has moved tanning beds to its highest cancer-risk category. In a report published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on July 29, 2009, the organization says tanning beds are carcinogenic to humans. The use of sunlamps and sunbeds was previously classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The change in designation means that tanning beds are now in the same category as cigarettes, arsenic and plutonium. The international agency's report says use of tanning beds can be especially problematic for young people. The risk of skin melanoma increases by 75 per cent when use of tanning devices starts before 30 years of age, the report says.
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