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Indoor Tanning

This month’s JAMA Dermatology (JAMA Dermatol. 2016; 152(3):268-275) features an article which tries to explain why the incidence of melanoma is increasing faster in women under 50 years of age compared to men under 50.  The authors conclude that this difference is most likely due to the higher rates of indoor tanning by younger women.   They warn that because women start tanning in their early 20’s, the future risk of melanoma in these young indoor tanners may be very high.

An editorial in the same issue (JAMA Dermatol. 2016; 152(3):257-259) points out that the risk of ultraviolet light exposure from indoor tanning is completely avoidable.  The radiation from indoor tanning is more dangerous than sun rays because it is more intense than that from the sun and exposes more of the body. The editorial calls for government regulations to protect the population from indoor tanning.

The American Academy of Dermatology points out that the risk of melanoma increases by 59 percent for individuals who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning and that this risk increases with each tanning session.

The World Health Organization has likened the risk of indoor tanning to smoking and driving without a seatbelt.

In 2014, the State of Illinois passed a law banning indoor tanning for anyone younger than 18 years old.  Earlier Illinois law allowed minors to tan with parental permission.

Currently the US Food and Drug Administration is considering  proposals to restrict indoor tanning for minors under 18 years across the country  and to have all adults sign a form acknowledging the risk before using an indoor tanning device.

Do not believe claims by The Indoor Tanning Association that tanning is safe and good for you.  According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “the indoor tanning industry’s revenue was estimated to be $2.6 billion in 2010.”  They will say anything to preserve their market.   This organization has been sanctioned by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about indoor tanning safety and the State Attorney of New York has sued 2 indoor tanning chains regarding untrue claims about safety and health benefits.

The bottom line:

Don’t go to tanning salons and teach your children about the dangers of indoor tanning.

If you currently go to tanning salons or have gone in the past, you are at a higher risk for developing melanoma.    Make an appointment for a baseline full skin exam.  Be aware of your moles and have any new or changing mole checked for melanoma.  Remember that melanomas are curable when found early, but can be deadly at later stages.


Harry Goldin, M.D.


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