Indoor Tanning and Melanoma

Akron Dermatologist Dr. Mostow

By Eliot N. Mostow, MD

Akron, Ohio 44320

Physician (MD, DO), Dermatology

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A study published in March 2014 looked at the association of indoor tanning use and the risk of developing melanoma.

It showed that using tanning beds is associated with a subsequent melanoma diagnosis. Exposure from more than 10 tanning sessions is most strongly associated with an increased risk of developing skin cancer. In addition, there was no significant difference in this association since the year 2000 when new tanning technology was introduced. This suggests that newer tanning technology is not any “safer” than older models.

This study should provide food for thought for politicians and public health officials.

I tell my patients that early melanomas are highly curable with surgery, but if not caught early, they can be deadly. If you are a patient with risk factors, such as a family history of skin cancer, you should be even more motivated to make the right decisions about avoiding exposure to UV radiation, through sun protection measures and avoiding use of indoor tanning lights.

While I am generally averse to additional laws telling us what we can and cannot do, I have come around to the opinion that if we limit the access of minors to tobacco products, we should likewise limit their access to indoor tanning, as the cancer-causing effects of these units have been well-established (and noted by esteemed organizations such as the World Health Organization).

Finally, remember that melanomas can occur anywhere, not just where there has been sun exposure (especially when indoor tanning has been used. Look at yourself top to bottom, use a mirror, ask a friend, and have your physician (dermatologists do this every day) give you a total body skin exam. It may not be dignified, but it can save your life.