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Study Finds Industry Funding Influences Indoor Tanning Safety Studies

Studies funded by the tanning industry seem to be the ones most likely to claim that indoor tanning is safe, despite evidence to the contrary from more independent research, according to the findings of a new analysis.

In a report published this week in the medical journal The BMJ, researchers from Stanford University warn that the majority of clinical studies concluding indoor tanning is safe are financially tied to indoor tanning industry leaders.

A wide range of research indicates indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Despite new FDA requirements for tanning bed manufacturers to place warnings on the indoor tanning sunlamp products, many people still use indoor facilities, especially teen and young adult women.

In this latest study, researchers searched for articles investigating and discussing indoor tanning and health benefits or risks. They included nearly 700 for the final analysis. Overall, nearly 11% of all articles favored indoor tanning, while 4% were neutral and 85% were critical. However, 7% of all studies analyzed had financial links to the indoor tanning industry.

According to the findings, nearly 80% of medical studies that favored indoor tanning or indicated it was harmless were backed financially by indoor tanning companies. About 10% of the indoor tanning industry-backed studies were neutral regarding the risk it posed to users, and only 12% were critical of indoor tanning or concluded it was harmful or unsafe.

Among articles not funded by the tanning industry, 4.4% favored indoor tanning, 3.5% were neutral, and 92% were critical of indoor tanning.

The researchers determined that industry funding was significantly linked with studies favoring indoor tanning.

“Although most articles in the indoor tanning literature are independent of industry funding, articles with financial links to the indoor tanning industry are more likely to favor indoor tanning,” they concluded. “Public health practitioners and researchers need to be aware of and account for industry funding when interpreting the evidence related to indoor tanning.”

There were approximately 25,000 tanning salons in the country in 2017. A study published in 2014 revealed there were more tanning salons in Florida than McDonald’s restaurants.

More than a quarter million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. in 2015 we’re caused by indoor tanning, according to one study. Other research has indicated the melanoma rates among young women who tan indoors increased by 74% in recent years.

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