More Evidence that Indoor Tanning Increases Risk of Melanoma

Posted on June 4th, 2010 by

Frequent indoor tanning increases the risk of developing melanoma, according to results recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.[1]

Each year in the Unites States, an estimated 28 million people visit an indoor tanning facility, with a majority of visits made by women and teenage girls. In addition, recent findings indicate that, on average, the number of tanning salons is greater than the number of Starbucks or McDonald’s.[2] The bad news is that tanning beds—like the sun—expose the skin to ultraviolet radiation, and a growing body of research indicates that indoor tanners have an increased risk of skin cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) now classifies tanning beds and other UV-emitting tanning devices as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that these devices cause cancer in humans.[3] Use of tanning beds has been linked with an increased risk of melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.

The strongest evidence for a link between indoor tanning and melanoma is found among individuals who were first exposed to indoor tanning at a young age. In a combined analysis of previously published studies, individuals who had their first exposure to indoor tanning before the age of 30 were 75% more likely to develop melanoma than individuals who had no exposure to indoor tanning.[4] The Skin Health Study was initiated in 2004 in order to confirm previous findings and establish the impact that indoor tanning has on the risk of developing melanoma in a large study specifically designed to overcome prior research limitations.

In this study, 1,167 individuals who had melanoma were compared with 1,101 individuals in the control group. In both groups, the researchers utilized phone interviews and questionnaires to establish whether or not an individual had ever used indoor tanning. In addition, for individuals who had used indoor tanning, the researchers determined the type of indoor tanning device used, the age when indoor tanning was initiated, duration and frequency of use, as well as intensity and burns experienced. In the melanoma group, 62.9% reported that they had used a tanning bed compared with 51.1% in the control group. Analyzing the self-reported data and adjusting for known risk factors, the use of indoor tanning increased the risk for melanoma by 74% compared with people who had never used indoor tanning. Interestingly, researchers reported that melanoma risk was increased across age groups and not limited to individuals exposed to indoor tanning at a younger age.

Because of the cancer risk, avoidance of tanning beds is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This study adds to the evidence that indoor tanning increases the risk of developing melanoma.


[1] Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, and Warshaw ME. Indoor Tanning and Risk of Melanoma: A Case-Control Study in a Highly Exposed Population. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2010; 19:1557–68.

[2] Hoerster KD, Garrow RL, Mayer JA, et al. Density of indoor tanning facilities in 116 large US cities. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2009;36:243-6.

[3] Armstrong B, Cardis E, Green A et al. A review of human carcinogens—Part D: radiation. Lancet Oncology. 2009;10:751-752.

[4] IARC Working Group. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review. International Journal of Cancer. 2006;120:1116-22.


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