Indoor Tanning

Using indoor tanning devices, such as tanning beds, tanning booths, and sun lamps as a way to tan the skin for cosmetic reasons exposes the skin to intense UVR.

Studies indicate that young women are significantly more likely to use indoor tanning facilities than young men.

A 2006 National Sun Survey conducted across Canada found that 27% of women between 16 and 24 years of age use tanning beds.

Saskatchewan residents are also more likely than other Canadians to use a tanning bed.

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The World Health Organization classifies indoor tanning devices as Class 1 human carcinogens – in other words, indoor tanning causes skin cancer.

Indoor tanning beds, tanning booths and sun lamps all expose you to intense UVR to tan your skin.

Indoor tanning is NOT a safe or healthy alternative.

Indoor tanning beds, tanning booths and sun lamps can cause cancer.

Indoor tanning is NOT healthy or safe in moderation.

Every trip to an indoor tanning session increases the risk of developing skin cancer. And the risk goes up the longer and more often someone uses an indoor tanning device. Building up a tan over time does not make it healthy. A tan is a sign of skin damage. Every exposure to UVR counts.

Tanning indoors in a tanning bed Is NOT safer than tanning outdoors.

The sun also emits UVR. But indoor tanning devices emit much higher doses of UVR than the sun. In fact, the UVR exposure from an indoor tanning device is stronger than the midday sun with a UV index of 13 to 15. And that’s extreme! Protection is needed outside when the UV index is 3 or higher.

While reducing UV overexposure from the sun can be sometimes challenging, UV exposure from indoor tanning is completely avoidable.

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Indoor Tanning Risk

The World Health Organization classifies indoor tanning devices as Class 1 human carcinogens – in other words, indoor tanning causes skin cancer. Class 1 includes other known causes of cancer like tobacco and asbestos.

Exposure to UVR from the sun and from tanning beds is the main risk factor for all types of skin cancers.

Research shows a 59% increased risk of melanoma among those who reported using indoor tanning before the age of 35 compared with those who did not use indoor tanning. The younger the age when indoor tanning begins and the more frequent the use, the greater the risk.

Exposure from tanning beds is entirely avoidable.

Other adverse health effects linked to indoor tanning include:

  • Eye damage (ocular melanoma)
  • Premature aging of the skin (e.g. wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin)
  • Burns and bacterial exposure
  • Tanning addiction

Skip the Base Tan!

One of the main reasons people say they use tanning beds is to get protection from future sun exposure. They think that if they get a base tan at the salon, they’ll be protected at the beach. It’s a myth.

In a recent Sun Smart survey of young adults, we learned:

  • 64.2% of young adults surveyed said that “to gain a protective base tan” was a somewhat or very important reason for indoor tanning”.
  • 58.8% of young adults said that they believe “getting an indoor tan first gives people good protection from the sun”.

Consider this myth busted!

A base tan doesn’t prevent sunburn.

Getting a base tan is more like pre-damaging your skin. Any indoor tanning activity is only adding more UVR exposure and skin damage before going out into the sun for even more exposure.

A tan offers only SPF 2-3. That little bit of protection is nowhere near what you need and not worth the damage to get it.

Always use a minimum of SPF 30 when using sunscreen. And it’s not all about sunscreen either! Don’t forget all the other great and stylish ways to keep your skin healthy and protected.

You may think that as long as you don’t burn at the tanning salon, your skin is safe. But a tan, whether you get it on the beach or in a tanning bed, is a sign of skin damage. A base tan is simply adding UVR exposure and skin damage before even going outside in the sun.

Adolescent Tanning Knowledge Survey

Young Adults Indoor Tanning Survey

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Sources

  • The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2014.
  • Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Correction: Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012;345:e8503.  http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/345/bmj.e4757.full.pdf
  • Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014.Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2014. http://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer.ca/CW/cancer%20information/cancer%20101/Canadian%20cancer%20statistics/Canadian-Cancer-Statistics-2014-EN.pdf
  • Colantonio S, Bracken MB, Beecker J. The association of indoor tanning and melanoma in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2014;70: 847-57.
  • Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. Cancer registry data; unpublished
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2014. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/prevent-skin-cancer/call-to-action-prevent-skin-cancer.pdf
  • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The Second National Sun Survey (NSS2). 2006: unpublished manuscript.

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