According to a 2005 survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology, 92% of the respondents understood that getting a tan from the sun is dangerous. Yet, 65% said that they think they look better when they have a tan.
In a quest to get a “sunless” tan, almost 30 million Americans visit indoor tanning salons each year. On an average day, more than 1 million Americans visit tanning salons. Of these, 70% are Caucasian girls and women between the ages of 16 and 49. More than 25% of teen girls have used tanning salons three or more times in their lives.
While many people believe that tanning at a tanning salon is a safer alternative to sunbathing, this is not the case, according to an article published in the December 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
An elevated skin cancer risk is one of the most serious side effects of indoor tanning. In one study that the authors reviewed, 106,973 women from Norway and Sweden were followed for an average of 8 years. Overall, regular tanning bed use was associated with a 55% increase in the risk of developing melanoma, especially in women between the ages of 20 and 29.
“Indoor tanning is practiced solely for cosmetic reasons,” said dermatologist James M. Spencer, md, one of the authors of the article. “Individuals who utilize tanning beds are intentionally putting their health at risk.”
Recently, medical organizations have been taking a harder look at indoor tanning. In March 2005, the World Health Organization recommended that no persons under the age of 18 use tanning beds. The American Academy of Dermatology fully supports this recommendation and encourages states to actively pursue legislation that protects children.
“The volume of research we reviewed confirms that indoor tanning is a dangerous practice and poses great risks to a person’s health,” Dr. Spencer said. “If you really want to look tan, consider using a sunless self-tanning product,” Dr. Spencer said. “But remember to use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 with it.”