skip to main content columnskip to left navigation

Skin Smart Campus

College of Public Health

Indoor Tanning

Dangers Associated with Tanning

Many people across the country don’t realize the dangers of using tanning beds. The truth is  tanning beds are more risky than sun exposure. In fact, tanning beds emit up to 15 times more UV radiation than the sun! With that type of UV radiation exposure, your skin gets damaged with every trip to the tanning bed.

There are over 2.5 million teens use tanning beds every year, 35% of which are girls age 17. However, many girls start using tanning beds as young as 13 years old!

There are two new studies that reveal young adults are engaging in behaviors that increase their skin cancer risk. According to one study, indoor tanning bed use was found to be very common among U.S. adults. In addition, it was found to be widespread among non-Hispanic white women aged 18-25. A second study reported that among U.S. adults aged 18-29 sunscreen use, staying in the shade, and wearing long-sleeved clothing has increased in frequency from 2000-2010, but there has not been a corresponding decrease in sunburns among people in this age group. Tanning beds can be the cause of this!

The manuscripts, published in the CDC’sMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, used data from the National Health Interview Survey’s Cancer Control Supplement to assess the proportion of adults who used an indoor tanning bed in the previous year. It also evaluates trends in sun protective behaviors and sunburn among adults aged 18-29. Therefore, the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is an excellent resource to learn more about the dangers of tanning.


Avoid Tanning Beds

Tanning Damage


Tanning beds emit mostly UVA rays. UVA rays penetrate deep to the dermal-epidermal junction of the skin, where they damage the DNA of your cells. Damaging the DNA is the first step to developing a melanoma, because this causes abnormal cells to begin to grow and multiply. Tanning beds also emit UVB rays, which not only increases your chances of getting melanomas but also other types of skin cancer (basal cells and squamous cells).

Facts About Tanning

1. The World Health Organization has concluded UV rays from tanning beds can cause cancer. There is no such thing as a "safe" tanning bed! 

2. By using a tanning bed just once before the age of 35, you increase your risk of melanoma by 59%! That risk increases with the number of tanning bed sessions used every year.

3.Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It kills one person every 50 minutes, and the rate of melanoma diagnoses is increasing faster than any other cancer.

4.It doesn’t take a sunburn to damage your skin. Tan skin is damaged skin. Protect the skin your in, because you only get one!

5.For most people, about 5-10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure 2-3 times a week is enough to help your skin make Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for your overall health. Your skin uses the UVB rays in sunlight to make Vitamin D. However, getting more than 5-10 minutes of unprotected sun won’t increase your Vitamin D level, and since tanning beds mostly use UVA rays, using tanning beds won't increase your Vitamin D levels either. However, it will increase your risk of skin cancer! You can get Vitamin D from orange juice, milk, fish, and vitamin supplements.

If you want to look tan, try a self-tanning product! Be sure to also use sunscreen with SPF 30, because most self tanners do not provide any sun protection.

Copyright © 2016 Melanoma Foundation New England. All rights reserved

icon for left menu icon for right menu