Women aged younger than 40 years when diagnosed with melanoma reported initiating indoor tanning at an earlier age and more frequent tanning than older women diagnosed with the potentially fatal skin cancer, according to a study published online by JAMA Dermatology.
DeAnn Lazovich, PhD, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, and colleagues analysed data to examine the likelihood of melanoma in relation to indoor tanning, the age when indoor tanning started, and the frequency of indoor tanning for men and women according to age at melanoma diagnosis or reference age for healthy control patients used as a comparison group.
The study included 681 patients diagnosed with melanoma between 2004 and 2007 and 654 comparison patients aged 25 to 49 years. Among the patients with melanoma, 68.3% were women as were 68.2% of the patients in the comparison group.
Women who tanned indoors had between a 2 to 6 times increased risk of developing melanoma.
Compared with women aged 40 to 49, women aged younger than 40 reported initiating indoor tanning at a younger age (16 vs 25 years) and they reported more frequent indoor tanning (median number of sessions, 100 vs 40).
About 33% of the women (21 participants) diagnosed before the age of 30 had melanomas on their trunk compared with 24% of women (64 participants) who were aged 40 to 49 years.
Men were less likely to report indoor tanning use compared with women (44.3% vs 78.2%), regardless of whether the men were diagnosed with melanoma or were comparison patients, which may explain the inconclusive findings for indoor tanning and melanoma among men. Still, among men aged 30 to 39 years, about 41% were diagnosed as having melanoma on their trunk compared with 49% of men aged 40 to 49.
The authors detail study limitations, including small sample sizes in some groups, especially among men, and low response rates.
"Our results indicate that these efforts need to be accelerated and expanded beyond bans on minor access to indoor tanning to curb the melanoma epidemic, which seems likely to continue unabated especially among young women, unless exposure to indoor tanning is further restricted and reduced," the authors wrote.
In an accompanying editorial, Gery P. Guy, Jr., PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, wrote: "In conclusion, the article by Lazovich et al highlights the need to address indoor tanning among young white women, among whom indoor tanning is most common. Reducing exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning is an important strategy for melanoma prevention. Ongoing surveillance can be used to determine the impact of policies on reducing the use of indoor tanning and the incidence of melanoma."