Melanoma: Tanning Rates Are Lower, But Millions Still At Risk

First Posted: Jul 02, 2015 02:19 PM EDT

Teenagers to 20-somethings and up may be lusting after bronzed, summer skin, but previous studies have shown just how dangerous tanning--particularly indoor tanning--can be. Not only do tanning beds significantly increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, but their use is even linked to premature aging.

Fortunately, the results of new findings published in JAMA Dermatology bring hope. The study results show that indoor tanning rates have dropped among adults from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013. However, an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still regularly head to their nearest tanning salon, increasing their cancer risk (and not to mention, potential for some sagging, leathery skin.)

For this study, researchers analyzed data on more than 59,000 individuals from the 2010 and 2013 National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

Findings revealed that indoor tanning dropped among users from the ages of 18-29 years old at 11.3 percent in 2010 to 8.6 percent in 2013. There was a larger drop in women than men at 8.6 percent in 2010, followed by a 6.5 percent drop in 2013. In men, researchers saw a 2.2 percent drop in 2010 followed by a 1.7 percent drop in 2013.

Study findings also revealed an increased amount of tanning among men in certain age groups. Indoor tanning frequency was up 177 percent among men ages 40 to 49 years old and 71 percent higher in men 50 and up. 

Health officials have made definite headway in preventing skin cancer risk and indoor tanning bed use. For instance, the Affordable Care Act established a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services in 2010, and in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that all sunlamps used in tanning salons carry a warning label so that consumers completely understand potential health dangers. But of course, there's still more work to be done. 

"We have denormalized the use of tobacco, but we have not denormalized getting a tan or denormalized the use of indoor tanning," said Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society, via USA Today

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