BUENOS AIRES--The tanning salon industry has grown enormously in recent years, with as many as 2 million regular patrons in the United States, and 1 million people visiting daily, W. L. Morrison, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, said at the Sixth World Congress on Cancers of the Skin.
There are more than 20,000 free-standing tanning salons in the United States, with another 40,000 in beauty salons and health clubs.
The bulbs used in the tanning salons emit ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation at a peak wavelength of 350 nm, with ultraviolet-B radiation, the wavelength that is implicated in skin cancer and melanoma development, ranging from 0.025% to 4% of the total.
Thus, tanning salons have advertised their services as providing a "safe" tan, a claim that was strongly debunked by Dr. Morrison.
Although UVA radiation is more efficient at producing a tan, the tan that develops is inefficient at subsequent protection against burning, he said.
Short-term problems such as eye injuries (from UVA radiation absorbed by the lens of the eye) and erythema are common, and long-term problems such as cataract development, skin photoaging, and skin cancer are expected to surface with time.
Dr. Morrison said that the Federal Trade Commission has recently ruled that patrons of tanning salons must use eyewear, and health risk notices must be placed on the units. In addition, tanning salons cannot advertise a "safe" tan or any other health benefit associated with the activity.