A lot of people wonder whether indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning, especially since outdoor tanning is linked with overexposure to harmful ultraviolet rays. Many resources suggest otherwise, even though outdoor tanning is harmful in those respects.
Indoor Tanning and Statistics
Indoor tanning has become popular within the past few decades, due to tanning’s assimilation in popular culture as a ‘desirable look.’
1. Within the United States alone, indoor tanning is said to cause as much as 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year. When compared to smoking, it’s at least 200,000 more cases of cancer per year. Smoking, in comparison, causes as much as 226,000 cases of lung cancer every year.
2. On average, as much as 1 million people use indoor tanning salons to tan each day. In addition, 35 percent of adults, 59 percent of college students and 17 percent of teens reported that they’ve used a tanning bed at least once in their life.
3. Throughout the year, 30 million people are known to use indoor tanning facilities in the United States. 2.3 million of these patrons are teenagers. Another study, from 2014, found that 13 percent of adults, 43 percent of college students and 10 percent of teens had ‘admitted’ to using indoor tanning beds over the past year.
4. When compared to the aforementioned results, the numbers actually decreased a little, but it says little about the true popularity of indoor tanning. The indoor tanning industry had revenue of an estimated $2.6 billion in 2010 alone.
5. Another survey from 2010, conducted by the National Health Interview Survey, found that ‘indoor tanning patrons were usually young, non-Hispanic white women.’
6. Although indoor tanning is used frequently, that doesn’t stop it from being inherently dangerous. The United States Department of Health and Human Services and World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency of Research on Cancer declared harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun and artificial sources as known cancer-causing substances or carcinogens.
7. Studies even found a 59 percent increase in UV radiation exposure from indoor tanning equipment or devices. That’s a big reason why indoor tanning is associated with developing an increased risk of melanoma in the first place. The risk actually increases each time a person uses an indoor tanning device.
8. Another study found that exposure to ultraviolet rays via indoor tanning devices causes more than 450,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, in addition to 10,000 cases of melanoma, within the United States, Australia and Europe each year.
9. Statistics, such as the aforementioned, show that indoor tanning can be harmful, even though it’s surrounded by a relatively innocuous setting. Due to this, people need to exercise caution and use their best judgment if they’re considering indoor tanning.
The Trouble with Indoor Tanning
Indoor tanning involves using a sunlamp, tanning booth or tanning bed to tan the skin indoors. Although indoor tanning is a rather convenient and, subsequently, popular form of tanning, it’s also considered dangerous in many respects.
Indoor tanning is actually linked with various skin cancers, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It’s also linked with eye cancers, such as ocular melanoma. Indoor tanning’s link with various types of cancers involves its use of ultraviolet rays in a hyper-concentrated setting.
When using a tanning bed or other indoor tanning equipment, users get exposed to two different types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB rays. These rays damage the skin and cause the skin to develop cancer. Since people use indoor tanning at a larger rate than in the past, more people now have a higher risk of contracting some form of skin cancer, due to the exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Younger people, especially, are now at higher risk of contracting skin cancers like melanoma. People who start indoor tanning at a younger age will develop that higher risk, since they get exposed to a greater amount of ultraviolet rays than most do in a lifetime.
Indoor tanning also causes other effects to the skin, such as premature skin aging (wrinkles and age spots) and changes to the skin’s texture. It also increases the risk of developing possibly blinding eye diseases.
Common Indoor Tanning Myths
Even though indoor tanning technically looks safe, it still exposes people to a far larger amount of UV rays in a shorter amount of time.
Many indoor tanning devices do operate on timers, but they also expose users to a large amount of ultraviolet rays in a short amount of time. The amount of ultraviolet rays exposed to the person who uses the tanning equipment varies, usually based on the type of bulb used. People even get sunburns from tanning indoors, and that alone potentially damages the skin.
In other words, indoor tanning doesn’t protect again sunburns. Tanning is actually a bodily response to skin injury: when the skin cells are attacked by ultraviolet rays, they respond by producing more pigment (melanin) to protect the skin.