Indoor tanning still common in Germany

NEW YORK Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:55pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Four in ten Germans ages 14 to 45 say they have tried indoor tanning and one in seven are current users, according to a survey out today.

Germany enacted legislation banning minors from tanning salons in 2009. Yet five percent of 14- to 17-year-olds in the survey, which was done in 2011 and 2012, said they had used indoor tanning in the past year.

"It's unfortunately not surprising, because it is still a very common practice," said Dr. Sophie J. Balk, an attending pediatrician at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York, who was not involved in the work.

Last year, Balk helped draft a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics calling for a nationwide ban against indoor tanning for minors.

Balk said a U.S. study from 2009 found more than 15 percent of high school students had visited a tanning salon over the past year.

"What is really shocking is that among those who used tanning salons, almost 50 percent used them at least 10 times," she told Reuters Health.

Since 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified tanning beds as cancer-causing, and research has tied their use to a small increase in rates of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one million skin cancers are diagnosed every year in the U.S. and most of them are sun-related.

About one in 50 white people get melanoma at some point in their life, and the number has been climbing for the past three decades. Each year, about 8,700 Americans die from the disease.

The German survey, led by Sven Schneider of Heidelberg University in Mannheim, is based on telephone interviews with 4,851 people. The findings were published in the Archives of Dermatology.

People said they used indoor tanning mainly for relaxation and to boost their attractiveness.

Balk said tanning regulation varies widely in the U.S., ranging from none to a complete ban in minors. The tanning industry has been resisting more regulation, but Balk said a countrywide ban is warranted to protect youngsters, just like they are prohibited from buying tobacco products.

SOURCE: bit.ly/Xf2Xuc Archives of Dermatology, online October 15, 2012.

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