1 Million Americans a Day Risk Injury in Tanning Salons

December 1, 1995

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.

BUENOS AIRES--The tanning salon industry has grown enormouslyin recent years, with as many as 2 million regular patrons inthe United States, and 1 million people visiting daily, W. L.Morrison, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, said at the Sixth WorldCongress on Cancers of the Skin.

There are more than 20,000 free-standing tanning salons in theUnited States, with another 40,000 in beauty salons and healthclubs.

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 melanomadevelopment, ranging from 0.025% to 4% of the total.

Thus, tanning salons have advertised their services as providinga "safe" tan, a claim that was strongly debunked byDr. Morrison.

Although UVA radiation is more efficient at producing a tan, thetan that develops is inefficient at subsequent protection againstburning, he said.

Short-term problems such as eye injuries (from UVA radiation absorbedby the lens of the eye) and erythema are common, and long-termproblems such as cataract development, skin photoaging, and skincancer are expected to surface with time.

Dr. Morrison said that the Federal Trade Commission has recentlyruled that patrons of tanning salons must use eyewear, and healthrisk notices must be placed on the units. In addition, tanningsalons cannot advertise a "safe" tan or any other healthbenefit associated with the activity.

State legislatures have also taken steps to restrict the use oftanning salons. A Texas law requires that children under the ageof 14 must be accompanied by an adult, adolescents under the ageof 18 must have parental permission, and clients must sign aninformed consent stating that they have been warned about thepotential risks of tanning devices.

Dr. Reintgen is associate professor of surgery, Moffitt CancerCenter and the University of South Florida, Tampa.

Who Uses Tanning Salons and Why?

Female users of tanning salons outnumber males by 3:1, and thepeak incidence of use is during adolescence and early adult life,Dr. W. L. Morrison said in his presentation (see story above).People with a skin type 1 phenotype, those who cannot tan, arejust as likely to visit a tanning salon as those with a type IIIskin phenotype who have some natural protection, he said.

The motivations for visiting salons seem to be self-image improvement,protection from subsequent sun exposure, and mood alteration.