Reducing the use of indoor tanning by enforcing an age restriction could potentially reduce melanoma incidence, mortality, and the costs associated with treating the disease, according to results of an economic analysis published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
In December 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration proposed an age restriction on indoor tanning for minors younger than 18 years.
“An age restriction on indoor tanning could be a significant step forward in the fight against skin cancer," said study author Gery P. Guy, PhD, MPH, a health economist in the CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control’s Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, in a press release. “By restricting the use of indoor tanning devices among minors, we could potentially save thousands of lives.”
Guy and colleagues used a Markov model to estimate the expected number of melanoma cases and deaths averted, life-years saved, and melanoma treatment costs saved by reducing indoor tanning. They looked at five scenarios: restricting indoor tanning among minors aged younger than 18, and reducing the prevalence by 20%, 50%, 80%, and 100%.
By restricting the age of indoor tanning, the model estimated that 61,839 melanoma cases would be avoided, a 4.9% reduction. In addition, 6,735 melanoma deaths (4.7% reduction) would be avoided over the lifetime of the 61.2 million youth aged 14 or younger in the United States. This age restriction would result in more than $342 million in melanoma treatment savings.
“We estimate that an age restriction younger than 18 years reduced the prevalence of ever indoor tanning by 29%,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, the 20% reduction scenario represents the benefits if the age restriction were less effective in reducing indoor tanning, whereas the 50%, 80%, and 100% reduction scenarios represent estimates if the age restrictions were more effective in preventing individuals from ever indoor tanning.”
Looking at the scenarios of reducing prevalence, the model showed that the estimated health benefits and cost-savings increased as the prevalence of tanning was decreased. If a reduction of 20% were achieved, 40,410 melanoma cases would be avoided, but if a reduction of 100% were achieved, 202,662 cases would be avoided (a 16.2% reduction). Additionally, if a 100% reduction were achieved a 16.2% reduction in melanoma deaths could be achieved.
A reduction of 20% to 100% in indoor tanning could result in melanoma treatment cost-savings from $219 million to $1.1 billion over the lifetime of the 61.2 million youth aged 14 years or younger in the United States.
“Estimates from this study indicate that reducing indoor tanning would be effective in preventing a substantial number of melanoma cases and deaths, and result in melanoma treatment cost-savings,” the researchers wrote. “Because the benefits increase as the prevalence of indoor tanning decreases, further efforts to reduce indoor tanning might be effective in reducing the burden of melanoma in the United States.”