Indoor Tanning: Cancerous and Deadly

Melanoma cases and deaths linked to tanning bed use

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Want to know what you can do to avoid cancer? Here's an easy one. Don't use tanning beds and don't allow your children to either. Ever. Spread the word.

After a large, systematic review and meta-analysis, tanning bed use has been linked to melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers.

Indoor tanning is associated with thousands of cases of melanoma and hundreds of deaths in Europe, according to new research.

"Stay away from tanning beds - they cause cancer."

Tanning beds are to skin cancer what smoking is to lung cancer. That's what European researchers have found and they're calling for more regulations against the sun tanning industry.

"Indoor tanning has a plethora of negative health effects, many of which are involved in cancerous processes," the authors wrote.

"The impact of this trend on incidence of skin cancer is of concern, mainly because of cutaneous malignant melanoma, a cancer of poor prognosis when diagnosed at an advanced stage," the researchers wrote in an article published July 24 in BMJ.

The review found that more than 3,400 (3,438) cases of cutaneous melanoma and nearly 800 (794) deaths a year in Europe were attributable to tanning bed use. These came from the nearly 64,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in Europe every year.

To reach these conclusions, researchers from the International Prevention Research Institute (IPRI) in France and the European Institute of Oncology in Italy analyzed the results of 27 separate studies on skin cancer and sunbed use between 1981 and 2012. Mathieu Boniol, director of research at IPRI, led the study.

The study found that anyone who ever used a tanning bed had a 20 percent increased relative risk of developing skin cancer. If they began before the age of 35, that risk skyrocketed to 87 percent for those who began tanning indoors before age 35.

This study confirms earlier research, including a 2005 study that found a 75 percent increase in melanomas among people who started indoor tanning during adolescence and early adulthood. 

The scientists contend that preventing these cancers and deaths could be achieved by avoiding indoor tanning altogether.

They also suggested "tougher actions" on the tanning industry, restricting indoor tanning under the age of 18 and banning unsupervised tanning salons.

No funding information was provided, and the authors declared no competing financial interests. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 24, 2012
Last Updated:
July 24, 2012