Study Finds More Skin Cancer Cases Due to Indoor Tanning than Lung Cancer Cases Due to Smoking

Published on January 29, 2014

JAMA Dermatology has released a study, “International Prevalence of Indoor Tanning -- A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”

Key study takeaways at-a-glance:

  • The number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.
  • In the US alone, 419,254 cases of skin cancer can be attributed to indoor tanning. Out of this number, 6,199 are melanoma cases.

The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Position:
The study results demonstrate that tanning bed use, particularly among young people, is an alarmingly widespread behavior. In the US, 35% of adults and 55% of college students have tanned, and the study found there are more than 419,000 new skin cancer cases attributable to indoor tanning each year. Worldwide, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking.

These results are not surprising given what we know about indoor tanning behaviors and society’s flawed view that an artificially tanned look is beautiful. The Foundation continually works to change perceptions about tanning through its public education efforts, including its PSA campaign Go With Your Own Glow, which is designed to encourage women to embrace and protect their natural skin tones.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds avoid indoor tanning and take precautions in the sun by limiting outdoor time between 10 am and 4 pm, seeking the shade when outdoors, using a broad spectrum SPF 15+ sunscreen (SPF 30+ sunscreen for extended stays outdoors), and wearing protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.

This is the first summary of the international prevalence of indoor tanning exposure. 88 records (studies) were included in the meta-analysis, and the results include data from 406,696 participants. Analyses were performed separately for three geographic regions: the United States and Canada, Northern and Western Europe and Australia, as well as for these regions combined.