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The True Cost of Indoor Tanning

Sunlamps and tanning beds not only pose serious health risks, they also cost the health care system millions of dollars.


Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation—whether directly from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps or tanning beds—increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Indoor tanning is especially risky – not only for your health, but also your wallet.

Skin cancers arising from indoor tanning cost Americans $343 million in health care costs in 2015 alone, says new research from the University of North Carolina. In addition, skin cancer could potentially lead to a total economic loss of $127 billion over the course of a lifetime.

And because the calculations made by the team were “conservative”, this figure may actually represent the lower end of the actual cost estimate.

"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and its incidence is increasing, due in part to the increase in the use of tanning devices," said study author Hugh Waters.

Over the last 20 years, the use of indoor tanning – despite all of the warnings – has increased. About 30 million people use devices such as tanning beds at least once per year. Nationwide, there are approximately 25,000 “salons” for tanning.

The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of a lifetime. The following statistics are related to the risks of indoor tanning:

• The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an affiliate of the World Health Organization, includes ultraviolet (UV) tanning devices in its Group 1 list of agents that are proven to be cancer-causing to humans. Group 1 also includes agents such as plutonium and cigarettes

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• More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning, including about 245,000 basal cell carcinomas, 168,000 squamous cell carcinomas, and 6,200 melanomas

• More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking

• Those who have ever tanned indoors have a 67 percent increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29 percent increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma

• Individuals who have used tanning beds 10 or more times in their lives have a 34 percent increased risk of developing melanoma compared to those who have never used tanning beds

• People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent

The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that there are twelve states plus the District of Columbia that now prohibit people younger than 18 from using indoor tanning devices unless a prescription is provided. Other countries, such as Brazil and Australia have banned indoor tanning altogether.

Journal of Cancer Policy, news release, Feb. 28, 2017
FDA: Indoor Tanning, The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays
Skin Cancer Foundation

Photo Credit:
By Evil Erin - http://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/3096163337/, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons