Doing this can increase your melanoma risk by 20 percent
Approximately 7.8 million American adults do it. Nearly 60 percent of college students have used one. And 17 percent of teens have reported taking part. What is the popular activity?
Yet research shows the activity is dangerous; according to the American Academy of Dermatology, even one indoor tanning session can increase a user’s risk of developing melanoma by 20 percent, squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent.
In fact, researchers estimate indoor tanning may cause about 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.
Experts find the trend upsetting.
“The statistics are startling,” says Dr. Sigrun Hallmeyer, director of Cancer Services and oncologist/hematologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “I continue to see an increase in all stages of melanoma cases, especially among young patients in my practice. There’s really no such thing as a healthy tan, but especially when it comes to indoor tanning, my recommendation is plain and simple – do not participate.”
The trends are even more concerning when you examine who’s most prone to use the beds. More than half of indoor tanners start tanning before the age of 21, and nearly a third start tanning even earlier – before they turn 18.
Some states, like Illinois, even have legislation regulating minors’ use of tanning devices for this reason.
“Awareness and understanding of the risks of indoor tanning are integral to protecting the younger population from a dangerous habit that could have adverse and even deadly consequences later in life,” says Dr. Hallmeyer. “The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer panel have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, like tanning beds, to be a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.”
And the dangers and damage caused by indoor tanning doesn’t stop at an increased risk of melanoma.
Studies show that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning damages the DNA of skin cells and can lead to skin aging prematurely, immune system issues and even eye damage.
Some experts even consider the activity addictive.
“There has been research that indicates over 20 percent of Caucasian women in their teens and 20s who use indoor tanning beds seem to exhibit a dependence on the activity,” says Dr. Hallmeyer.
Concerned about your risk?
If someone has used an indoor tanning bed in the past or has risk factors such as a history of blistering sunburns as a teenager, red or blonde hair, marked freckling or a family history of melanoma and is over 40, Dr. Hallmeyer recommends an annual skin exam with a trained professional.
Monthly skin self-exams are also important to determine if you need to see a physician.
You can use the ABCDEs of melanoma to check your moles:
- Border irregularity
- Color change
- Diameter greater than 6 mm
- Evolving or changing lesion
Contact a physician if you notice any of these warning signs during a self-exam.
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.