Dermatologists from Penn State University say that a safe tan does not exist. The incidence of melanoma, a fatal form of skin cancer, was eight times higher among women and four times higher among men in 2009 compared to 1970. Sixty thousand people are diagnosed with melanoma each year in the USA – one American dies every hour from the disease. The American Cancer Society says that among 25 to 29 year olds, melanoma is the most common form of cancer – it is the second most common form among 15 to 29 year-olds.

According to the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceeding, the dramatic increase in melanoma cases among young women is partly due to their increasing usage of tanning beds. Up to 80% of tanning salon clients are female.

Rogerio Neves, professor of surgery, dermatology, pharmacology and medicine, says that the increase in indoor tanning bed usage is one of the main reasons for the rise in the number of melanoma cases in America.

10% of America’s population, 30 million people, use tanning beds annually. They have long been linked to an increase in skin cancer. An Icelandic study found that melanoma rates rose considerably after tanning beds were introduced in the country. Iceland is a cold nation and its people have relatively little exposure to the sun.

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Tanning beds have become increasingly popular over the last thirty years, especially among young women

More people are aware of the dangers of getting sunburnt, and that over-exposure to sunlight can raise the risk of developing skin cancer. Information on the danger of tanning beds is widespread. So why do people still use them?

The tanning industry is a multi-billion dollar business that, according to a Congressional Report published on February 1, targets teenage females with promotions and advertising. The Report accuses the industry of denying the known risks, providing inaccurate and false data on tanning benefits, and does not follow FDA recommendations on how often people should tan.

WHO (World Health Organization) International Agency for Research on Cancer classes tanning beds as carcinogenic to humans. Cigarettes, arsenic, plutonium and mustard gas have the same category.

Some US states have introduced legislation aimed at protecting young people by requiring parents to sign a consent form before their under-18 children are allowed to use tanning beds. Professor Neves says that, so far, their efforts are not working, mainly because so many tanning salons ignore the legislation. In some cases, teenagers provide fake consent forms (by falsely signing as their parents).

Professor Neves wrote:

“There are currently two separate bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that address the use of tanning salons. The leadership of the Penn State Hershey Melanoma Center is working closely with members of the House and Senate to ensure that legislation is passed to put appropriate measures in place to protect consumers and restrict the use of tanning beds by minors. The reason is simple: tanning beds are dangerous and there is no such thing as a safe tan.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist