New study says indoor tanning-related skin cancers
contribute significantly to early deaths.
In a new study, Dr. Hugh Waters and his colleagues
from the University of North Carolina established
how prevalent indoor tanning-related skin cancers
are in the US, and calculated the costs of these
They estimate that in 2015 there were 263,600 cases
of skin cancer that could be attributed to indoor
These cases cost US $343.1 million in medical costs
in 2015, and cause a total economic loss of $127
billion over the lifetime of the people affected.
The authors conclude that effective policies and
strategies are needed to reduce the use of tanning
devices, in order to mitigate their significant
health and financial impacts.
There is strong evidence that tanning devices cause
skin cancer. They emit UV radiation; UV-A damages
cells and DNA, causing skin cancer, and UV-B causes
burning and contributes to skin cancer.
In addition, there are several other diseases linked
to indoor tanning, including dermatitis, keratitis
and porokeratosis. Despite this, the proportion of
people in the US who use indoor tanning devices has
risen over the last 20 years; an estimated 30
million people now use the devices at least once a
year, in the approximately 25,000 tanning salons
across the country.
The researchers focused on three types of skin
cancer: cutaneous melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and
squamous cell carcinoma.
They identified the total number of cases in the US
in 2015 and worked out how many of these cases were
likely due to the use of tanning devices, by using
data on prevalence of use of tanning devices and
previously published estimates of relative risk –
the likelihood of having the disease for people who
use tanning devices compared to people who don’t.
There were 9,000 cases of melanoma, 86,600 cases of
squamous cell carcinoma and 168,000 cases of basal
cell carcinoma that could be attributed to the use
of tanning devices.
They then estimated the healthcare cost of these
cases, based on the average annual cost of treating
patients with each of the diseases.
This resulted in an estimated cost of US $343.1
million a year in medical costs.
By working out the years of potential life lost due
to the diseases, and the average lost earnings per
person, they also determined the cost of working
time missed due to the conditions.
These productivity losses amounted to US $127
billion over the lifetime of the people who had the
conditions attributable do tanning devices in 2015.
“Our calculations are all conservative, so this is
the lower end of the estimate – the impact could be
even higher than this,” said Dr. Waters.
“Tanning devices cause hundreds of thousands of
people to suffer a number of different diseases,
costing billions of dollars and, most importantly,
people’s lives. We hope that our results will help
in the efforts toward reducing the use of tanning
For more information
The Health and Economic Implications of the Use of
Hugh R. Waters
It appears in the Journal of Cancer Policy, volume
12 (2017), published by Elsevier.