Indoor Tanning Risks

By: Vivacare - Dr. Mark Becker

Indoor Tanning is Dangerous

There is compelling, irrefutable scientific evidence which shows that indoor tanning beds can increase your risk for skin cancer.

Yet as the evidence of cancer risk grows, more than one million Americans continue to use indoor tanning salons on an average day.

Physicians are particularly alarmed about the impact of indoor tanning on young women. Research shows that 70% of indoor tanners are female, primarily 16 to 29 years old. This is an age group that is especially at risk for developing skin cancer.

Melanoma is increasing faster in young women than in young men. This difference in skin cancer rates is likely due to the finding that women are more likely to use indoor tanning beds.

Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases one’s risk for melanoma by 75 percent. Melanoma is now the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, and is the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old. In fact, melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than in males in the same age group.

Risks of Indoor Tanning

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency of Research on Cancer panel has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
  • Indoor tanning equipment, including beds, lamps, bulbs, booths,… etc., emit UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to the sun, and in some cases might be stronger.
  • Evidence from several studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
  • Studies have demonstrated that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA in the skin cells. Excessive exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression, and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.
  • Indoor tanning beds/lamps should be avoided and should not be used to obtain vitamin D because UV radiation from indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer. Vitamin D can be obtained by a eating a healthy diet and by taking oral supplements.
  • In a recent survey of adolescent tanning bed users, it was found that about 58 percent had burns due to frequent exposure to indoor tanning beds/lamps.
  • The FDA estimates that there are about 3,000 hospital emergency room cases a year due to indoor tanning bed and lamp exposure.

Indoor Tanning Legislation

In the United States, more than 30 states restrict indoor tanning use by minors (prohibit use or require parental consent), despite the call from the World Health Organization (WHO) to prohibit minors from indoor tanning because of the danger of skin cancer.