Tanning and Health Risks

While it remains a popular belief that a tan makes a person look healthy, significant health risks are associated with tanning.   Despite the risk, tanning remains a common practice in young people. The World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer has listed ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from artificial light sources (including indoor tanning equipment) as a known cancer-causing agent.   Many countries around the world have banned the use of indoor tanning and in December 2015 the United States FDA proposed banning use of indoor tanning by people under the age of 18 years.   Here is some important information for you to consider about indoor tanning (extracted from the American Academy of Dermatology Website as of 1/7/2016):

Indoor tanning use is common

  • Thirty-five percent of American adults, 59 percent of college students, and 17 percent of teens have reported using a tanning bed in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 7.8 million adult women and 1.9 million adult men in the United States tan indoors.
  • 12.8 percent of high school students have reported using an indoor tanning device.
  • Nearly 70 percent of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian girls and young women, and melanoma is increasing faster in women 15-29 years old than in young men of the same age.
  • The indoor tanning industry’s revenue was estimated to be $2.6 billion in 2010.

Risks of indoor tanning

  • Indoor tanning equipment emits UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to the sun, and in some cases may even be stronger.
  • Multiple studies show that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning is associated with increased risk of skin cancer, including the most dangerous form (melanoma).
    • Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.
    • Melanoma is more common among young females compared to young males and may be due in part to widespread use of indoor tanning among females.
  • Studies have found a 59 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who use indoor tanning, and the risk increases with each use. Even people who do not burn after tanning are at increased risk if they tan indoors.
  • Even one indoor tanning session can increase users’ risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.
  • Indoor tanning before age 24 increases one’s risk of developing basal cell carcinoma by age 50.23
  • Other health risks of indoor tanning include: premature skin aging, immune suppression, and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.
  • In addition to the above-mentioned risks, frequent, intentional exposure to UV light may lead to tanning addiction.
  • Indoor tanning beds/lamps should not be used to obtain Vitamin D due to safety risks. Vitamin D can be obtained by a eating a healthy diet and by taking oral supplements.

For more information on how to protect your skin and information how to reduce your risk for skin cancer, you can link to the websites below:

American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer

Skin Cancer Foundation (the section called “True Stories” has stories about young person’s experiences with tanning and skin cancer. See the video “Natalie’s story”):