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2013 01 06

This time of year, many of us in the cooler climates miss the sun, and tan skin, that comes with summer. However, turning to indoor tanning is not a good idea. Although the risks for artificial tanning have been known for years, the indoor tanning industry does not seem to fully disclose the potential harm to users.

Last year, an investigative report conducted by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee raised concerns about indoor tanning salons not providing factual and sufficient information on the health risks associated with the practice.

ABC News reported that “Committee investigators posed as fair-skinned 16-year-old girls, and contacted 300 indoor tanning salons throughout the country. Of the salons contacted, 90 percent told the ‘girls’ that indoor tanning did not pose health risks, and more than half the salons denied that the fake sun increased risk of cancer. Many described such statements as ‘rumor’ and ‘hype,’ according to the report, and more than three-quarters of salons said indoor tanning is actually beneficial to the health of a teen girl. Salons told the ‘teens’ that the intense UV rays treat depression, induce vitamin D production, prevent and treat arthritis and help with weight loss, cellulite, depression and self-esteem. Employees also often referred to industry-sponsored websites that downplay or disregard the copious research that has found indoor tanning causes melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.”

The truth however, is much different. Medical research shows that indoor tanning is a cause of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease, while the World Health Organization grades indoor tanning beds as a “Group 1” carcinogen (along with tobacco smoke and arsenic).

Adding more evidence to the risks of indoor tanning, a 2012 study published in the journal BMJ, combined the results of 12 prior studies on over 80,000 people. The researchers estimated more than 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers may be due to indoor tanning in the United States each year. Those with exposure to indoor tanning before the age of 25 were linked to an increased risk for basal cell carcinoma, according to the study.

So while a tan may look good, beware of the skin damage and cancer that may result from indoor tanning.

  • Source: ABC News and ABC News
  • Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Unless otherwise noted, all images are models and not actual patients.)
  • Copyright: Karol A. Gutowski, M.D., Chicago, IL, 2013