Winter Indoor Tanners Beware

Just Four Annual Visits to an Indoor Tanning Salon Significantly Increases Skin Cancer Risk


Nearly 30 million Americans who visit tanning salons each year may do so because they believe they look better with a tan. In fact, they are putting themselves at risk for skin cancer and premature skin aging. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a proven human carcinogen, and is linked with a higher risk of all forms of skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanoma, the most common form of cancer among young adults ages 25-29 years old.

 Multiple reports have documented the health risks associated with using UV-emitting tanning devices. With the help of this research, The Skin Cancer Foundation is dispelling some common tanning excuses.

“I only use tanning beds once in a while”

You don’t need to be a frequent tanner to increase your risk for skin cancer. While it is true that melanoma risk can increase by 74 percent for frequent tanners, new research finds that those who make just four visits to a tanning booth per year can increase their risk for melanoma by 11 percent, and their risk for the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), by 15 percent.

 “I’ll stop tanning eventually”

Research has shown that tanning is addictive. Exposure to UV radiation from tanning machines stimulates the “rewards center” in the brains of frequent UV tanners, which could cause tanning addiction, according to a new study in Addiction Biology. When activated, the rewards center releases feel-good chemicals, which “could reinforce the tanning behavior, encouraging excessive tanning,” said Heidi T. Jacobe, MD, study coauthor and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Tanning beds are safer than being in the sun”

Tanning salon owners say tanning machines are safer than outdoor tanning for two reasons: 1) they mainly emit ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation (vs. the ultraviolet B rays that cause sunburn), and 2) they offer more "controlled" UV exposure. However, we now know that UVA, like UVB, is a carcinogen, and studies have revealed that tanning salons often exceed "safe" UV limits. Frequent tanners using new, high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA radiation dose compared to what they receive from sun exposure.

UV radiation, either from the sun or a tanning machine, causes skin damage that is cumulative and often irreversible. The destructive process of photoaging – premature skin aging due to UV exposure – produces profound structural changes in the skin including wrinkles, blotchiness, sagging and a leathery texture. Some of these changes may appear as early as the age of 20 in anyone who has spent a great deal of time exposing their skin to UV radiation during childhood and teen years.