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While the link between tanning beds and increased risk of cancer has been suspected for quite some time now, a new study now shows that tanning beds may increase the risk for skin cancer by four-fold. Researchers associated indoor tanning with a 74% higher risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If detected and treated early, melanoma is nearly 100% curable. Unfortunately, many do not recognize the signs in time, allowing the cancer to advance and spread to other parts of the body. At this stage, it becomes difficult to treat and can be fatal. Melanoma is the second most common cancer among people ages 15 to 29 and the numbers appear to be rising. The National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 70,000 Americans were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009 with more than 8,000 deaths resulting from the cancer.

Normally, the risk for melanoma depends on factors like sun exposure, the number of moles on the skin (e.g., greater than one hundred moles on the skin), skin type, and family history. However, tanning beds function by delivering a greater amount of radiation over a shorter period of time. There are four categories of tanning beds – conventional, high-speed machines that use higher amounts of ultraviolet-B (UVB) light, high-pressure machines that use more ultraviolet-A (UVA) light, and sun lamps. By delivering increased intensity of UV rays, these tanning beds offer consumers a quick and convenient means of attaining an attractive glow. But is this temporary glow worth it?

The Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have both declared UV rays as a known human carcinogen, yet the tanning industry has continuously exaggerated the benefits of exposure to UV rays and downplayed the cancer risk that tanning beds pose. An FDA advisory panel is currently considering tougher regulations on indoor tanning, which would impose age restrictions for people under the age of eighteen. Given the substantial health risks that tanning beds pose, do you think that the FDA should regulate the use of indoor tanning beds or do you think it is for the consumer to decide whether a golden glow is worth the increased cancer risk?

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