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Before Americans hit the beach this summer, nearly 30 million of them will be visiting a tanning salon, thinking that tanning ahead of time indoors will help protect them against the harmful effects of too much sun.

Indeed, many people believe (as the tanning industry has encouraged us to do) that so called “controlled” tanning in indoor tanning booths is a healthy alternative to getting sunburned outside. Many also believe that they are doing themselves a favor in exposing themselves to UV rays because they boost the body’s production of Vitamin D, which can help prevent certain types of cancer.

The truth is that tanning booths are not healthy in any sense.

In 1994, a Swedish study found that women 18-30 years old who visited tanning parlors 10 times or more a year had seven times greater incidence of melanoma than women who did not use tanning salons. In another study, people exposed to 10 full-body tanning salon sessions had a significant increase in skin repair proteins typically associated with sun damage, indicating that UV radiation from indoor tanning is as dangerous as UV from the sun. And in 2002, a study from Dartmouth Medical School found that tanning device users had 2.5 times the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times the risk of basal cell carcinoma. –Skin Cancer Foundation

Despite these frightening findings, Americans are spending roughly $2 billion a year to tan indoors. Worst of all, the tanning industry is terribly regulated, and lobbies fiercely to stay that way. Where regulations do exist, they are often willfully ignored by the tanning salons. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “studies have shown that tanning salons frequently exceed ‘safe’ UV limits. The average salon patron in North Carolina was recently found to exceed FDA limits by 95 percent.”

“Safe” is in quotes up there because there are no known safe amounts of UV exposure. Although the FDA has set limits for the radiation doses people are allowed to receive, there is no proof that any dose of UV exposure is safe.

For all of these reasons, dermatologists and cancer experts all across the country feel strongly that tanning salons should be banned. From a health and safety standpoint, it’s really hard to argue that they shouldn’t. Skin cancer kills millions every year.


  1. Gravatar for Joe

    Well, let's take a look at what is being said.

    Two American Academy of Dermatology press statements this spring about melanoma incidence appear to directly contradict American Cancer Society statements about the disease and appear to be conflicted by the National Cancer Institute’s own data reports.

    The AAD is coming under increased scrutiny for their statements that suggest melanoma is increasing “particularly” among young women when NCI data show that increases are concentrated heavily in older men — who get the overwhelming majority of melanomas and who are responsible for most of the increase, according to National Cancer Institute data.

    The American Cancer Society, in its Cancer Facts and Figures Annual report, contradicts AAD’s statement. “During the 1970s the incidence rate of melanoma increased rapidly by about 6% per year. However, from 1981-2000, the rate of increase slowed to 3% per year and since 2000 melanoma incidence has been stable,” ACS reported in its 2008 Cancer Facts and Figures Annual Report. “The death rate for melanoma has been decreasing rapidly in whites younger than 50, by 3% per year since 1991 in men and by 2.3% per year since 1985 in women.”

    The melanoma mortality rate for men is more than double the rate for women (3.9 per 100,000 vs. 1.7 per 100,000) according to the National Cancer Institute. Yet women make up the majority (> 75%) indoor tanners.

  2. Gravatar for brad

    This is post has so filled with incorrect information it is hard to decide where to begin. I will start with your quoting the Skin Cancer Foundation which is funded by the "sun scare industry", namely the manufacturers of chemical sunscreens. These billion dollar firms love scaring people out of tanning beds and onto the beach using their products which they have fought for a decade to have reviewed for real effectiveness by the FDA. Look to see if your sunscreen has a Skin Cancer Foundation and AAD "approval" on it. This is the unholy alliance between the dermatologists and the sunscreen manufacturers.

    Next, could you please stop referencing the "Swedish study". It was a mailed out survey and has zero credibility. Not one of these people ever saw a doctor and no other health history, cancer history, outdoor sun habits, etc. were ever taken into account.

    Last, please retract the out right lie that 1 million people die of skin cancer each year. This would be more than double all heart related disease deaths annually and make it the leading cancer (and over-all) killer in the country. There were 8700 deaths (approx) from melanoma last year (ACS numbers). There is no national data base for skin cancer cases and deaths nationally ( for non-melanomas) and never have been. The numbers thrown around are all 'estimates" by whoever thinks they are a 'qualified" source.

    There are many positives to moderate, controlled UV exposure and lots of quality research to support it. We actually require UV to live. Be glad to share some of the sunny facts with you.

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