Melanoma Spiking In Young Adults Thanks To Tanning Beds

The popularity of tanning beds is on the rise, and it’s coming with a price: skin cancer. That’s the conclusion of a study carried out by the Mayo Clinic on patients diagnosed with melanoma between 1970 and 2009. Over the course of the nearly four decades analyzed, skin cancer cases increased nearly four fold for men and a whopping eight fold for women. While the sample was relatively small, the results were extremely troubling. Lead researcher Dr Jerry Brewer made no bones about his theory behind the spike.

“A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74 per cent more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men,” Brewer said in a statement.

“The results of this study emphasize the importance of active interventions to decrease risk factors for skin cancer and, in particular, to continue to alert young women that indoor tanning has carcinogenic effects that increase the risk of melanoma.”

Melanoma is a particularly nasty form of cancer, the most deadly type of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease.  And cases of melanoma from tanning bed use are the worst kind of cancer: the kind that’s 100% preventable unless you engage in risky behaviors — like tanning.

The study results had a slight silver lining: over the years, survival rates of melanoma have improved, primarily due to better detection and more advanced treatments. However, with survival rates of the most severe stage of melanoma at 15-20% at best, the better option would be to not get cancer in the first place.

But this message appears to fall on deaf ears, especially with youth. There are a variety of factors behind the popularity of tanning beds: vanity and the wish to always appear with a golden skin tone, as if from a trip somewhere hot and sunny; pop culture and celebrities who are popularizing and even promoting the dangerous practice; there’s even a theory that the tanning beds themselves are addictive, giving users an endorphin rush and leaving withdrawal-like symptoms when they stop using the beds.

Yet tanning remains a perfectly legal pastime, despite its dangers.  Should vanity be outlawed, or is it your skin, your risk?


Related Stories:

FDA Says Not All Sunscreens Are Alike (and None Are Waterproof)

Do Young Women Fear Damaged Skin More Than Cancer?

UV-Emitting Tanning Devices Carcinogenic to Humans

Photo from Leyla.A on Flickr.

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Jesse K.
Jesse Kaellis2 years ago

I used tanning beds for close to a decade. I'm toast. I know it, you know it and everybody knows it. I stopped using them 17 years ago but it's probably too late. I don't take sun at all anymore. I'm a dead man!

Meris M.
Meris M.3 years ago

Not only tanning beds. It may be that melanoma is also caused by using cell phones on the beach - interaction of harmful electromagnetic radiation emitted by these devices and the rays of the sun.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W.3 years ago

There definitely needs to be more education into them. Not many are aware of the endorphin high that they are becoming addicted to, but for the 63% of people who lean towards outlawing them, apparently they are lucky enough not to suffer from a skin condition that is greatly improved with concentrated beams.
Why not just lie in the sun? Well, my friend has psoriasis in places that she would be arrested for sunning. That, and in Iowa, it's really too cold to do that more than 3 mo/yr.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago

What a dumb trend. Why pay when you can have the natural sun. Bu why need a golden skin in the first place?

Randy M.
Randy M.3 years ago

The author Shannon McKarney is full of blarney and needs to research the health benefits of UV light exposure! Sunlight and artificial UVB rays are the best and most natural ways for the body to generate vitamin D and it actually helps prevent cancers or all kinds as well as many other chronic diseases. Skin cancer is linked to the unhealthy processed foods and harmful rancid fats most people consume. The sun best rays are between 11 am and 2 pm during summer and you should be careful not to burn. You can also use a safer tanning bed or booth with high output UVB lamps, which are more like natural sunlight, giving your skin a slight pink or red cast which will turn to tan in a day. Many people choose the beds with high UVA output which make you brown and do cause skin damage and can lead to skin cancers. I avoided the sun for many years and after I started reading about the benefits of UVB exposure, I invested in a booth for home use for the winter, spring and fall and I'm glad I did.

Amber Beasley
Amber Beasley3 years ago

why people want to use tanning beds to begin with is beyond my understanding. tanning doesn't even look good, especially if you look like a carrot.

Nancy Roussy
Nancy Roussy3 years ago

So everything should be banned then since everything can be dangerous! The dangers of tanning beds are not hidden so everybody that uses them know what can happen to them just like all the people who smoke, drink alcohol and uses drugs know what they get into before starting! I never used them myself just like I never used any of the other tanning stuff because I preffer being white as a ghost than to be orange.

Gary Ansorge
Gary Ansorge3 years ago

Wes G

"that the latest research and studies indicate that the cause of skin cancer is in fact vitamin D deficiency"

There MAY be some truth to that assertion but it is far easier and safer to merely take 5000 iu of vit D/day than to spend time in the sun. The only way THAT would work is if you're a "red neck" (old term for people who spent all day working in the sun). They still get skin cancers but their vit D levels are very high and that MAY protect them from the deleterious effect of UV and consequent melanoma. We need more research to settle the issue. The point about the tanning beds is, these people are only getting a smidgen of vit D from their efforts still accelerates the aging effect of tanning.

Arjen Lentz
Arjen Lentz3 years ago

While you can't really (and shouldn't, it has adverse effects) legislate stupidity, getting rid of tanning beds as in the "beauty" industry (there are valid uses for medical purposes) seems like an awfully good idea. On the other hand, insurance firms could simply declare to no longer cover skin cancer treatment if the person uses tanning beds, just like you wouldn't give a lung transplant if the patient is still smoking.

To the person who wrote about skin cancer re "vitamin D deficiency" - you may have misinterpreted some information. A lack of vitamin D is definitely an issue for other health matters, but skin cancer is not one of them. Advising people to go out unprotected in midday sun is downright foolish - that applies to most places, and in some areas of the world it would be beyond stupid. Do what you will on a personal level, but don't recommend these things to other people.

Francesco Lepri
Francesco Lepri3 years ago

My story: about one year of tanning shower, sometimes 3 times a week (take 3 pay 2).
The result? I've got skin cancer!
...and think that I knew...
By miracle, it seems that God has give me another chance,
as by chance doctor has found melanoma, plus at initial stadium.
Many others are'nt so lucky.