What Would You Risk for a Tan?

Indoor tanning linked to melanoma diagnosis in women younger than 40

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many young women use tanning beds before swimsuit season begins to get some extra color. But these women may want to opt for a safer method.

A new study from the University of Minnesota (UM) found that women diagnosed with melanoma before age 40 tended to start indoor tanning earlier and tan more frequently than older women diagnosed with the potentially fatal form of skin cancer.

"From a public health perspective the continued use of indoor tanning, along with the frequency of its use, is a cause for concern," wrote Gery P. Guy, Jr., PhD, and colleagues, in an editorial about this study. "Regardless of age, each time an individual engages in indoor tanning he or she is further increasing the risk for melanoma."

In the US, women younger than 50 are developing melanoma more frequently than their male counterparts.

To find out why, DeAnn Lazovich, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at UM, and team looked at the link between indoor tanning and melanoma.

They focused on 681 patients diagnosed with melanoma between 2004 and 2007, and 654 patients without melanoma. All were between the ages of 25 and 49. About 68 percent of the patients both with and without melanoma were women.

Women who tanned indoors were between 2 and 6 times more likely to develop melanoma than women who didn't. Women younger than 40 tended to report starting indoor tanning at a younger age (16 vs. 25) and tanning more frequently (100 sessions vs. 40) than women ages 40 to 49.

All but two of the 63 women diagnosed with melanoma before age 30 had tanned indoors.

An estimated 11.3 million Americans participate in indoor tanning each year, despite new policies that attempt to reduce access to minors. About 85 percent of indoor tanners are adults. Indoor tanning is most common among non-Hispanic white women ages 16 to 25. Among these women, more than half tanned indoors more than 10 times per year.

Men were much less likely to report indoor tanning than women in this study. Therefore, these findings may not apply to men.

This study was published Jan. 27 in the journal JAMA Dermatology. The National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 25, 2016
Last Updated:
January 27, 2016