Using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan is called indoor tanning. Indoor tanning is a major public health problem, accounting for nearly half a million new cancer diagnoses each year. According to the CDC, Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays while indoor tanning can cause skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. UV exposure also can cause cataracts and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma). UV exposure from the sun and from indoor tanning is classified as a human carcinogen (causes cancer in humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization) and by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Facts About Indoor Tanning
- Tanning indoors is not safer than tanning in the sun
- A base tan is not a safe tan
- Indoor tanning is not a safe way to get vitamin D
- No amount of time in tanning bed is safe
Sunbeds give out harmful ultraviolet UVA rays that damage your skin and can make it look wrinkled, older or leathery. The UV rays from sunbeds can also damage the DNA in your skin cells, and over time this damage can build up to cause skin cancer.
Sunbeds can sometimes be marketed as a ‘controlled way’ of getting a ‘safer tan’. But actually, sunbeds are no safer than exposure to the sun itself. And using a sunbed before you go on holiday doesn’t protect against further damage from the sun while you’re away. One study found that the average skin cancer risk from sunbeds can be more than double that of spending the same length of time in the Mediterranean midday summer sun.
Several different types of studies have shown consistently that indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of getting skin cancer, including melanoma.
IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) agrees there is sufficient evidence to show that using sunbeds causes melanoma skin cancer, the most serious form. They also state that sunbeds provide no positive health benefits. Combining the results of studies on sunbeds and cancer shows that using a sunbed increases melanoma risk by 16-20%.