Indoor Tanning: Bad, and Getting Worse

It's springtime and a young person's fancy turns to... indoor tanning beds. And yes, that's completely insane. Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the US annually, yet approximately 7.8 million adult women and 1.9 million adult men in this country use tanning beds. In 2015, all that indoor tanning-induced skin cancer lead to a total economic loss of $127 billion over the lifetime of those patients. Unlike other well-documented bad behaviors, such as cigarette smoking or cleaning your gun while drinking tequila, indoor tanning is actually on the rise.

Now we all have that one friend, with skin the consistency of papyrus, who seems addicted to indoor tanning, and we get that she may be doomed. But what about the rest of us who may duck into a tanning salon right before the annual Memorial Day Barbecue, just so we don't look like we spent the entire winter at the bottom of the Marianas Trench? There's nothing wrong with indulging in that one tanning session to kick off the season, is there?

Only if you're a gambling man. Just one indoor tanning session can increase your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent. But most of us would prefer better odds if we are betting with our lives.

Unfortunately, the indiscretions of your youth are not easily reversed when it comes to indoor tanning. Women younger than 30 who tan indoors are six times more likely to develop melanoma, and anyone who tans indoors before age 24 increases their risk of developing basal cell carcinoma by age 50.

Understand that tanning outdoors is no day at the beach either. Both cause your skin to age prematurely, creating wrinkles and age spots. But indoor tanning typically exposes your skin to high levels of ultraviolet radiation in a shorter period of time – that is, in fact,  one of the “selling points” of indoor tanning.

It's gotten to be so bad among young, non-Hispanic white women:

  • 32 percent of those aged 18 to 21 years,
  • 30 percent of those aged 22 to 25 years,
  • 22 percent of those aged 26 to 29 years,
  • and 17 percent of those aged 30 to 34 years

...that many states and some cities and counties have taken to banning indoor tanning for people under the age of 18.

Now here's the kicker: Both Brazil and Australia have banned indoor tanning for people of any age. Think about that: How bad does a tanning process have to be for Brazil to ban it?

Make Pale the New Tan, and live longer!