Indoor Tanning Fades, but Millions Still Risk It

Indoor tanning appears to be on the decline

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) At one time, many people thought indoor tanning meant a healthy glow year-round. Today, more and more people may be realizing that this isn’t so.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found “significant” reductions in indoor tanning among US adults from 2010 to 2013.

Indoor tanning is far from safe, according to the CDC. The organization said that the practice can cause skin cancers, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can also cause cataracts and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma).

“The decrease in indoor tanning may be partly attributable to the increased awareness of its harms,” wrote Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, of the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in Atlanta, GA, and colleagues. “Indoor tanning devices have been classified as carcinogenic to humans, their use has consistently been shown to increase skin cancer risk, and laws restricting access among minors may have changed public perceptions of their safety.”

Coyle S. Connolly, DO, dermatologist and president of Connolly Dermatology in New Jersey, told dailyRx News that he hopes that increased public awareness regarding the dangers of tanning beds has led to a decline in use.

"My advice to any young person using indoor tanning is to simply stop and look for an alternative such as self tanners or bronzers," Dr. Connolly said. "The risk of skin cancer, scarring associated with skin cancer removal, premature aging, etc. is just not worth it."

Dr. Guy and team looked at the tanning habits of 59,145 US adults between 2010 and 2013.

Overall indoor tanning rates dropped from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013. However, an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still engage in the practice, according to the CDC.

Along with this overall decrease in tanning, the practice decreased from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 8.6 percent in 2013 for those aged 18 to 29. Tanning also decreased among both women (from 8.6 percent in 2010 to 6.5 percent in 2013) and men (from 2.2 percent in 2010 to 1.7 percent in 2013).

For women who tanned, Dr. Guy and team found that they were doing it less often. Tanning frequency dropped 28 percent among the oldest group of women. It also dropped 45 percent among college graduates, 33 percent among women in fair or poor health and 23 percent among women meeting specific physical activity benchmarks.

For men who tanned, however, they appeared to be doing it more often. Tanning frequency shot up 177 percent for men aged 40 to 49 and 71 percent for men age 50 or older.

A tax on indoor tanning started in 2010 may have contributed to the overall decrease, according to the CDC.

“Research regarding the motivations of indoor tanners could inform the development of new interventions,” Dr. Guy and colleagues wrote. “Physicians can also play a role through behavioral counseling, which is recommended for fair-skinned persons aged 10 to 24 years. Continued surveillance of indoor tanning will aid program planning and evaluation by measuring the effect of skin cancer prevention policies and monitoring progress.”

This study was published July 1 online in the journal JAMA Dermatology. No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
June 30, 2015
Last Updated:
July 7, 2015