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You may want to think more than twice before you head to the tanning salon. The New York Times reports: In the last two years, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology have labeled tanning beds as the health-peril equivalent of cigarettes.

Skin Cancer Is Up; Tanning Industry a Target

“If adults want to make the decision to use tanning beds, fine,” said Dr. James M. Spencer, clinical professor of dermatology at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a co-author of a 2004 paper published by the Academy of Dermatology proposing regulations to bar minors in tanning salons. “But we don’t sell cigarettes to minors, and indoor tanning is similar — we know it will cause cancer. Not maybe. Not might. It’s going to cause cancer. No one under 18 should be allowed to use those things.”

Melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, claims an estimated 8,000 lives annually in the United States. It is the most common cancer in young women aged 25 to 29, according to recent dermatological studies.

Despite the lack of indisputable evidence of the cause, however, dermatologists have taken a hard line against tanning. They point to three intersecting reasons for concern — the rising number of melanomas being diagnosed, studies indicating possible links between melanomas and sunburning in early life, and the popularity of tanning among teenage girls — to support their proposal to bar those under 18 from indoor tanning parlors.

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