The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced on Wednesday that it has moved sunbeds, or sunlamps, up to the highest cancer risk category, classifying their use as "carcinogenic to humans."
Previously, tanning devices were only rated as a possible cause of melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.
The IARC, an expert committee reporting to the World Health Organization, made its decision following a comprehensive analysis which concluded that the risk of melanoma is increased by 75 percent when people start to use tanning devices before age 30.
Additionally, several studies found links between the use of tanning devices and melanoma of the eye.
Meanwhile, the IARC reclassified ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is further subdivided into UVA, UVB and UVC, as all being carcinogenic to humans. UVA, UVB and UVC radiation were each previously thought to be "probable" cancer agents.
These findings will be published in a special report in the August edition of The Lancet Oncology.
However, the Sunbed Association, a European trade association representing sunbed manufacturers, distributors and operators, disputed the IARC classification.
"The fact that is continuously ignored is that there is no proven link between the responsible use of sunbeds and skin cancer," it said in a statement.
"The relationship between UV exposure and an increased risk of developing skin cancer is only likely to arise where overexposure and burning in particular has taken place.
"Research has shown that over 80 percent of sunbed users are very knowledgeable about the risks associated with overexposure to UV, and the majority of sunbed users take 20 or less sunbed sessions per year."
(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2009)