Indoor tanning with UV radiation–emitting lamps is common among adolescents and young adults. Rising incidence rates of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) have been reported for the United States and elsewhere, particularly among those diagnosed at younger ages. Recent epidemiologic studies have raised concerns that indoor tanning may be contributing to early occurrence of BCC, and younger people may be especially vulnerable to cancer risk associated with this exposure. Therefore, we sought to address these issues in a population-based case–control study from New Hampshire.


Data on indoor tanning were obtained on 657 cases of BCC and 452 controls ≤50 years of age.


Early-onset BCC was related to indoor tanning, with an adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 1.6 (95% confidence interval, 1.3–2.1). The strongest association was observed for first exposure as an adolescent or young adult, with a 10% increase in the OR with each age younger at first exposure (OR per year of age ≤23 = 1.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–1.2). Associations were present for each type of device examined (ie, sunlamps, tanning beds, and tanning booths).


Our findings suggest early exposure to indoor tanning increases the risk of early development of BCC. They also underscore the importance of counseling adolescents and young adults about the risks of indoor tanning and for discouraging parents from consenting minors to this practice.

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