If you, like most people, believe in science, the question is no longer whether indoor tanning causes cancer, but instead, how much cancer and which types. It's kinda similar to where we were almost a half century ago with cigarette smoking when it was finally proven that smoking causes cancer. Not surprisingly, as time goes on, the news about the morbidity and mortality from indoor tanning keeps getting worse. Today, I'll tell you how many people do it and what indoor tanning really does to you, not for you.
In order to properly frame the impact of this episode, I have to start by stating the most important fact about indoor tanning: It's a World Health Organization Group 1 Carcinogen. That means it is carcinogenic to humans. And to give you perspective, there are four different groupings that range from not carcinogenic, to possibly, probably, and actually carcinogenic, and only approximately 99 other carcinogens are listed in Group 1.
A huge and therefore very convincing study about indoor tanning was published in a well respected medical journal last year. This study involved a half million people in 16 countries including the U.S., Europe, and Australia.
The primary goal was to calculate the international prevalence of exposure to indoor tanning... in other words... how many people do it.
And then the authors calculated the number of skin cancers that can be blamed on indoor tanning each year.
I'm about to share a bunch of numbers that tell an alarming story.
In terms of how many people actually do it, they separated the results into three groups... adults, university students, and adolescents.
First, they found out how many people have ever done Indoor Tanning in their entire life: adults 36%, university students 55%, and adolescents 19%.
What about in the year prior to the study? Adults 14%. University students 43%. And adolescents 18%.
So it's not really surprising that there's an epidemic of Melanoma in young white females.
Ok... So indoor tanning is wildly extensive. Based on these findings, the researchers estimated that about 419,000 cases of basal and squamous cell carcinoma and almost 11,000 cases of melanoma each year are caused by indoor tanning.
To put those numbers into perspective, about 363,000 cases of lung cancer are attributable to smoking each year in the same countries included in the study. Of course, the 400,000 annual cases of non melanoma skin cancer are not nearly as impactful as lung cancer, but melanoma is even worse.
Bottom line: Indoor tanning is far worse that outdoor tanning, and the only safe tan comes out of a bottle. If you still go to a tanning salon, it's time to make a better choice.
If not now, then when?