40 Interesting Facts about Tanning

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 14, 2016
  • Radiation from just 10 indoor tanning sessions in two weeks can suppress a person’s cancer-fighting immune system.[6]
  • Despite decades of public health efforts to educate the public on the importance of protection from UV radiation, over 30 million people tan indoors a year in the United States. Approximately 71% of tanning salon patrons is girls and women aged 16–29.[4]
  • A base tan does not protect skin from damage. In fact, people who base tan are more likely to report getting sunburned.[5]
  • Even though vitamin D is important, the safest way to receive enough vitamin D is through diet rather than from sun exposure.[5]
  • A 2014 study found that newer tanning beds were not safer than older tanning beds.[2]
  • Indoor tanners tend to be young, non-Hispanic, white women. Among them, 32% are aged 18–21; 30% are aged 22–25; 22% are aged 26–29; and 17% are aged 30–34.[5]
  • Tanning breaks down the collagen and elastin fibers, causing wrinkles and loosened folds
  • Tanning can cause permanent structural damage to the skin, including wrinkling, age spots, and loss of elasticity.[5]
  • Just in the United States, 419,254 cases of skin cancers can be attributed to tanning beds. Out of this number, 6,199 are melanoma cases.[5]
  • Nearly 1 million people in the United States tan in tanning salons—every day.[4]
  • In California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas, and Vermont, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use an indoor tanning bed.[5]
  • Oregon and Washington prohibit anyone younger than 18 to use an indoor tanning device without a prescription.[5]
  • In Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, minors under the age of 17 are not allowed to use tanning devices.[5]
  • Brazil and New South Wales in Australia have banned indoor tanning.[5]
  • Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have banned indoor tanning for people younger than 18 years old.[5]
  • Two types of UV radiation that penetrate the skin are UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays penetrate the top layers of the skin and are the ones mainly responsible for sunburns. UVA rays penetrate to the deeper layers of skin and are associated with allergic reactions, such as a rash. Both damage the skin and both lead to cancer. Both types of radiation are emitted in tanning beds.[7]
  • Tanning can cause skin cancer, such as melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. It can also cause cataracts and eye cancers (ocular melanoma).[7]
  • Melanoma accounts for 5% of all skin cancers and 71% of all skin cancer deaths
  • In addition to cancer risks, frequent and intentional exposure to UV light can lead to an addiction to tanning, a condition colloquially known as “tanorexia.” Several studies have also found that those who are addicted to tanning also are more likely to suffer from anxiety or mood problems.[4]
  • In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ranked indoor tanning salons in the highest cancer risk category, as “carcinogenic to humans.” Previously, they had been categorized as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”[5]
  • Women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55% more likely to develop melanoma.[4]
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults 25–29 years old and is the second most common form of cancer in adolescents and young adults 15–29 years old.[4]
  • In 2010, the indoor tanning industry’s revenue in the U.S. was estimated to be $2.6 billion.[4]
  • In a survey of adolescent-aged tanning bed users, over 58% of those who responded reported burns due to frequent exposure to indoor tanning bed lamps.[4]
  • Over 3,000 hospital ER cases per year are due to indoor tanning bed and lamp exposure.[4]
  • Indoor tanning is especially dangerous for younger people. Those who begin indoor tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have a higher risk of getting melanoma.[9]
  • The younger a person starts tanning, the more likely they will develop skin cancer
  • Sunless tanning is a safer alternative than sunbathing. The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is the color additive dihydroxyacetone, which reacts with dead cells in the skin’s surface to temporarily darken the skin.[9]
  • Sunless tanning pills, which contain the color additive canthaxanthin, are unsafe. Large amounts of these pills can turn a person’s skin orange, cause hives, and cause liver damage and impaired vision.[9]
  • The number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.[11]
  • The risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which is a common nonmelanoma skin cancer, increases by 25% after only one or two indoor tanning sessions The risk soars to 73% after six or more sessions.[2]
  • Children of women who tan indoors are more likely to be indoor tanners themselves. Specifically, young women whose first indoor ultraviolet tanning experience is with their mothers are more than 4.6 times more likely to become heavy tanners themselves.[8]
  • The risk of melanoma increases by 75% if someone starts to use a tanning bed before the age of 35.[7]
  • Both outdoor and indoor tanning are dangerous. Any tan is the body’s response to injury from UV rays and is a sign of underlying DNA damage to skin cells.[2]
  • Both outdoor and indoor tanning are dangerous
  • Skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer. One in five Americans will develop the disease in their lifetime. To reduce the risk of skin cancer, experts caution people to avoid suntanning and tanning booths, wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, wear sun-protective clothing, and seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.[9]
  • Government research links indoor tanning by teenagers with other risk behaviors, such as binge drinking, unhealthy dieting, and sexual activity.[1]
  • Studies show that individuals with highly sensitive skin were more likely than those with less sensitive skin to tan indoors in order to attain a pre-vacation tan. Additionally, indoor tanning is more common among people who have freckles and less common among women who reported having dark hair.[3]
  • Studies show that those who tan indoors are also more likely to engage in other sun exposure behaviors, such as sunbathing or not wearing sun-protective clothing. Additionally, they report having more sunburns than those who do not tan indoors.[3]
  • There are more tanning salons in major American cities than McDonald’s or Starbucks sites.[4]
  • Experts note that there is some indication that those who tan indoors tend to be more physically active and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who don’t.[3]
  • Tanning cannot replace actual light therapy
  • While tanning salons may advertise that indoor tanning helps relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the UV light in a tanning bed/lamp is not a component of light therapy. Light therapy acts through the eyes and requires visible, not UV, light.[10]
  • While tanned skin has not always been in vogue, since the industrialization of the workforce in the West, tanned skin has been increasingly seen as attractive and fashionable.[3]
  • In the U.S., tanning beds emit 4 times the UVA radiation and 2 times the UVB radiation of the midday summer sun in Washington, DC. High-speed sunlamps emit a UVA dose 6 times, and high-pressure sunlamps 12 times, that of the Washington, DC, summer sun.[3]
References

1CDC Study Links Teenagers’ Indoor Tanning with Sex, Binge Drinking.” Global News. February 27, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

2Even One Pre-Prom Tan Can Be Dangerous.” Skin Cancer Foundation. 2014 Accessed: November 19, 2014.

3Heckman, Carolyn J. and Sharon L. Manne. Shedding Light on Indoor Tanning. New York, NY: Springer Science and Business Media, 2011.

4Indoor Tanning.” American Academy of Dermatology. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

5Indoor Tanning Is Not Safe.” CDC. Updated July 15, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

6Indoor Tanning.” Kids Health. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

7Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays.” FDA. Updated May 29, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

8Like Mother, Like Daughter: Indoor Tanning with Mom Sets a Dangerous Precedent.” Skin Cancer Foundation. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

9More than 18% of Women Tanned Indoors in the Last Year.” Skin Cancer Foundation. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

10Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Skin Cancer Foundation. 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

11Study Finds More Skin Cancer Cases Due to Indoor Tanning than Lung Cancer Cases Due to Smoking.” Skin Cancer Foundation. January 29, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.

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