With the proliferation of 50,000 tanning facilities in the USA (as of 2007), we are now seeing a huge epidemic of skin cancer in young people! There are now over a million cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year in this country. Why is skin cancer increasing when more parents and young adults are aware of the cancer-causing effect of radiation, and increased use of sun-screen? The answer is that more teens are using tanning salons at the age where the skin is the most susceptible to the cancer-causing effects of radiation (teen age years).
Tanning beds are touted as "safer" because they don't cause as much burning of the skin. Yet, the cancer-causing radiation is 10-15 times greater than peak natural sunlight (at noon). That means 10-15 times greater risk of skin cancer.
Once unusual, malignant melanoma is now becoming common in young adults. It is the most deadly form of skin cancer, and is the 2nd most common cancer in women under 40, and the 3rd most common in men. One study showed a 55% increase in melanoma in young women who used artificial tanning at least once a month. The study also showed there is no safe level of use; even the very first use of a tanning bed increased the chance of melanoma.
Pre-Vacation Tan Myth
Many people still believe the old myth that tanning at a salon prevents burning when you go on a sunny vacation. The protective effect of having a pre-tan is about "3 SPF", or the same as essentially no sunscreen at all. Ironically, the radiation exposure will be much higher, due to the high dose of radiation from the tanning salon. In addition, most people spend more time in the sun believing that they are protected, and get too much radiation from the sun as well.
Tanning Industry is Big Business
The tanning industry produces over 5 billion dollars annual revenue. That buys a lot of lobbyists and a lot of advertising! The tanning industry tries to sell its deadly product to teens by advertising in school newspapers and other teen publications. They have lobbied hard to stop state legislatures from passing laws which prevent teens from using tanning salons. However, there are already 28 states which have laws restricting tanning salon use by teens.
The tanning industry tries to promote "controlled tanning" as safe and healthy. Yet there is no scientific data that demonstrates any health advantage of artificial tanning. On the other hand, there is a very large and growing number of studies that show the link of artificial tanning with cancer and early death.
There is an obvious parallel between artificial tanning and tobacco use, which also leads to later cancer. All states now restrict underage tobacco sales, because children are not able to make sound decisions about how dangerous behaviors will affect their future health. The same is true of teens using tanning salons.
Health Leaders Are United Against Artificial Tanning
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that tanning salons are not safe. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Dermatology all support legislation banning the use of tanning salons by anyone under 18.