Before Americans hit the beach this summer, nearly 30 million of them will be visiting a tanning salon, thinking that tanning ahead of time indoors will help protect them against the harmful effects of too much sun.
Indeed, many people believe (as the tanning industry has encouraged us to do) that so called “controlled” tanning in indoor tanning booths is a healthy alternative to getting sunburned outside. Many also believe that they are doing themselves a favor in exposing themselves to UV rays because they boost the body’s production of Vitamin D, which can help prevent certain types of cancer.
The truth is that tanning booths are not healthy in any sense.
In 1994, a Swedish study found that women 18-30 years old who visited tanning parlors 10 times or more a year had seven times greater incidence of melanoma than women who did not use tanning salons. In another study, people exposed to 10 full-body tanning salon sessions had a significant increase in skin repair proteins typically associated with sun damage, indicating that UV radiation from indoor tanning is as dangerous as UV from the sun. And in 2002, a study from Dartmouth Medical School found that tanning device users had 2.5 times the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times the risk of basal cell carcinoma. –Skin Cancer Foundation
Despite these frightening findings, Americans are spending roughly $2 billion a year to tan indoors. Worst of all, the tanning industry is terribly regulated, and lobbies fiercely to stay that way. Where regulations do exist, they are often willfully ignored by the tanning salons. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “studies have shown that tanning salons frequently exceed ‘safe’ UV limits. The average salon patron in North Carolina was recently found to exceed FDA limits by 95 percent.”
“Safe” is in quotes up there because there are no known safe amounts of UV exposure. Although the FDA has set limits for the radiation doses people are allowed to receive, there is no proof that any dose of UV exposure is safe.
For all of these reasons, dermatologists and cancer experts all across the country feel strongly that tanning salons should be banned. From a health and safety standpoint, it’s really hard to argue that they shouldn’t. Skin cancer kills millions every year.