Indoor Tanning Risks Targeted By “Burning Truth” Awareness Campaign

Federal health officials have launched a new marketing campaign, which is designed to raise awareness of the dangers associated with the use of tanning beds, which have been linked to increased risks of deadly skin cancer. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its “Burning Truth” initiative this week, warning that thousands of individuals nationwide are hospitalized each year due to burns from sunbeds, which can also have long term side effects on the skin.

The CDC says the Burning Truth campaign seeks to dispel common misconceptions of indoor tanning, including the myth that a base tan from indoor tanning can protect against severe outdoor sun burns. CDC experts warn that this not correct, noting that a base tan only provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of about 3 or less, doing very little to prevent damage from UV rays.

The campaign also seeks to inform people that tanned skin is not healthy skin, and that controlled tanning is not considered “safe tanning”. Officials claim that many believe controlling their UV exposure by indoor tanning can prevent melanoma skin infections or other harmful consequences to the skin. However, this is false and the intense UV ray exposure in tanning salons can actually increase an individual’s risk of melanoma.

Melanoma is the most serious and potentially fatal type of skin cancer. An average of 200,000 new cases of melanoma are recorded each year, the CDC warns, and it is the second most common cancer seen among women between 20 and 29 years of age.

In a study published in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology in 2017, researchers found that  indoor tanning before the age of 30 is linked to a six-fold increased risk of developing skin cancer. Other studies have indicated bans on teen indoor tanning have little effect in deterring teens from the harmful habit, putting a heavier burden on tanning salons to enforce the rules.

Previous research has also found that many individuals who routinely use tanning salons are unaware of the dangers. Researchers from Massachusetts General performed presented a survey’s findings at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) 2018 Annual Meeting, indicating dads, parents of teenagers, parents who tan themselves, and parents who have never received skin cancer prevention counseling were more likely to believe indoor tanning was not harmful.

The AAD reports that using tanning beds before the age of 35 can increase an individual’s risk of melanoma by 59 percent, with an increased risk per use. Indoor tanning and poor UV ray protection can result in several other adverse health consequences including premature wrinkling, cataracts,warts, and painful rashes.

In 2015, more than a quarter million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. were attributable specifically to indoor tanning, some researchers say. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and incidence of skin cancer has risen over the last 20 years.

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