Tanning beds in salons do not increase melanoma risk.

Tanning beds in salons do not increase melanoma risk.

Tanning bed use, By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute.

Sun exposure and tanning-bed exposure have been much maligned by those who would increase sunscreen sales and other “protection” against melanoma. So a new paper has been written regarding the truth about tanning beds. According to this paper, Risk of melanoma with tanning beds is slightly associated with home use, but there is no significant increase in risk with beds used in tanning salons. This is according to a soon-to-be-published analysis of studies that differentiated between home-use tanning beds and salon use of tanning beds.[1]

The analysis showed that when all tanning devices were considered together, tanning bed use was associated with a 15%-20% increased risk of melanoma. However, when home-use tanning was separated from salon use, salon use showed only a 5% increased risk, which was not significant. In other words, there may have been no risk whatever. In fact, in three of the studies that were part of the analysis, overall use of tanning beds associated to a lessened risk of melanoma.

Therefore, if there is any increased risk of melanoma with tanning-bed use, it is all due to the use of home units. This is what we might expect, since salons take care to assess skin type and monitor the time spent in the unit.

Before we decide to eschew the use of home units, however, we should also take into consideration the very healthful benefits of tanning-bed use in general. Here are a few well-documented facts about the benefits:

  • Tanning bed use is associated with a reduced risk of clots.[2]
  • Tanning-bed use is associated with increased vitamin D levels.[3]
  • Tanning-bed use is associated with stronger bones.[4]
  • Tanning-bed use can cure psoriasis and eczema and tanning beds are often recommended by dermatologists.[5]
  • Tanning-bed use more than three times yearly is associated with a 40-50% reduced risk of endometrial cancer.[6]
  • Tanning-bed use is associated to lower breast-cancer risk.[7]
  • A 20- year study demonstrated that both sun exposure and tanning-bed exposure reduced the risk of death; women who used tanning beds were 23% less likely to die of any cause than women who did not use them.[8]

The key to safe tanning-bed use is the same key as for safe sun exposure: Don’t be taken in by the anti-sun, anti-tanning movement.

[1] Hoel, D. Commercial Tanning Salons and Melanoma Risk. Letter to the editor, Dermato-endocrinology. Not yet published.

[2] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Olsson H. Does an active sun exposure habit lower the risk of venous thrombotic events? A D-lightful hypothesis. J Thromb Haemost. 2009 Apr; 7(4):605-10.

[3] Holick, M. Boston University. “Effects Of Vitamin D And Skin’s Physiology Examined.” Science Daily 21 February 2008 <http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2008/02/080220161707.htm>.

[4] Tangpricha V, Turner A, Spina C, Decastro S, Chen TC, Holick MF. Tanning is associated with optimal vitamin D status (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration) and higher bone mineral density.  Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1645-49.

[5] Radack KP, Farhangian ME, Anderson KL, Feldman SR. A review of the use of tanning beds as a dermatological treatment. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2015 Mar;5(1):37-51.

[6] Epstein E, Lindqvist PG, Geppert B, Olsson H. A population-based cohort study on sun habits and endometrial cancer.  Br J Cancer. 2009 Aug 4;101(3):537-40.

[7] Yang L, Veierød MB, Löf M, Sandin S, Adami HO, Weiderpass E. Prospective study of UV exposure and cancer incidence among Swedish women. J Intern Med. 2014 Jul;276(1):77-86

[8] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Nielsen K, Stenbeck M, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2014 Jul;276(1):77-86.

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