Any use of a tanning bed, booth or sunlamp to tan the skin is called indoor tanning, and this form of tanning has a direct relationship to the development of skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet rays while indoor tanning can lead to melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It can also cause cataracts and cancers of the eye.
UV exposure from both the sun and indoor tanning (which can be just as strong as the sun, if not stronger in some cases) is classified as a human carcinogen—substances that can cause cancer in humans—by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Indoor Tanning Dangers
Indoor tanning exposes users to two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. It can be particularly dangerous for younger people, and several states have laws prohibiting indoor tanning for people under 18 years of age. Every occurrence of indoor tanning increases the risk of skin cancer, and it can cause the following effects:
- • Causes premature skin aging, including wrinkling and age spots
- • Changes skin texture
- • Increases risk of potentially blinding eye disease if eye protection is not used
A few statistics that help capture the scope of the risks involved with indoor tanning include:
- • Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States alone each year.
- • A study found that among women under 30, those who tanned indoors were six times more likely to have a melanoma diagnosis than non-tanners. Among women between 30 and 39, this risk was about four times as likely as non-tanners.
- • Tanning use is more widespread among females, which may be part of the reason melanoma rates are higher among young females than young males.
- • Using indoor tanning beds before age 35 increases melanoma risk by 59 percent, and the risk continues to increase with each use.
- • Even a single indoor tanning session can increase risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.
- • The estimated cost of treating skin cancers attributable to indoor tanning is $341.1 million per year, or an economic loss over $127.3 billion over the lifetime of the people affected.
- Frequent exposure to UV light may lead to tanning addiction.
Here few basic facts about indoor tanning that might act as corrections to misconceptions about indoor tanning:
- • Tanning indoors isn’t safer than tanning in the sun; both types of tanning are dangerous. Indoor tanning can still lead to burns, and any tan whatsoever still causes damage to the skin.
- • A base tan is not a safe tan. A tan is simply the body’s response to injury it received from UV rays. A base tan does very little to keep you protected from further UV exposure damage, and in fact, people who tan indoors are more likely to report sunburns.
- • Indoor tanning is not a safe method of obtaining vitamin D. It’s important to take in vitamin D, but the safest way to do this is via diet. Tanning harms the skin, and it’s difficult to measure exactly how much sun exposure you need in order to get the requisite amounts of vitamin D because this is different for every person. It can also vary with weather, latitude, altitude and more.
To learn more about the health effects of indoor tanning, speak to your doctor.
As Utah County’s leading dermatology practice, Revere Health Dermatology provides the best in skin care for our patients.
“Indoor Tanning Is Not Safe.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/indoor_tanning.htm
“Indoor tanning.” American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care