Beware the Tanning Bed!

Tanning salons are now more common in American communities than Starbucks® or McDonald’s®, and dermatologists are warning of increased cases of the deadliest form of skin cancer in teens and young women.

A recent American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) survey of more than 3,800 white, non-Hispanic females ages 14 to 22 finds:

• 32 percent using tanning beds (including 25 percent doing this at least weekly) in the past year; and

• 81 percent tanning outside either frequently or occasionally in the past year.

“Our survey underscores the importance of educating young women about the very real risks of tanning, as melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is increasing faster in females 15 to 29 years old than in males of the same age group,” AAD President Ronald Moy, MD states. “In fact, most young women with melanoma are developing it on their torso, which may be the result of high-risk tanning behaviors such as indoor tanning. In my practice, I have had patients – young women with a history using tanning beds – who have died from melanoma.”

Federal Health and Human Services and World Health Organization officials have declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial light sources – such as tanning beds and sun lamps – as a known carcinogen. Studies show that indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of melanoma by 75 percent.

Among 18- to 22-year-old women, 40 percent reported having indoor tanned, compared to 22 percent of teen girls ages 14-17.

“The challenge is that teens have access to indoor tanning salons on almost every corner. A recent survey of 116 U.S. cities found an average of 42 tanning salons per city, which means tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbucks® or McDonald’s®,” Moy states. “We are very concerned that this tanning behavior will lead to a continued increase in the incidence of skin cancer in young people and, ultimately, more untimely deaths from this devastating disease.”

At current rates, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma, and the incidence of melanoma has been rising for at least 30 years – particularly among young, white women.

Visit to find out how to perform a skin self-exam, download a body mole map or find free skin cancer screenings in your area.

–  Deirdre Wilson

Posted May 2011