Melanoma Risk with Indoor Tanning Results in Drop Among U.S. Teens: Study

New research suggests that the number of teens who use indoor tanning beds has dropped over the past six years, amid growing concerns over the risk of melanoma skin cancer. 

Despite the decrease, more than 1 million teens are still using tanning beds, according to findings published this week in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed national data from the 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, with nearly 16,000 U.S. high school students responding each year.

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Overall, a substantial reduction in the rate of indoor tanning among high school students was seen from 2009 to 2015, falling from 15% to 7%.

Indoor tanning rates among male students dropping from nearly seven percent in 2009, to four percent in 2015. However, females also used indoor tanning beds less often, with use rates decreasing from 25% in 2009, to 10% in 2015.

Tanning rates dropped among all white students, decreasing from 21% to 9% by 2015.

White females also decreased tanning frequency, a population that has especially high indoor tanning rates. Among white females a decrease from 37% to 15% was seen by 2015. However, one in every four teen girls over 17 said they still use tanning beds.

While Hispanic students already had a lower rate of indoor tanning use, their use rates also dropped from eight percent in 2009 to nearly five percent in 2015.

Researchers also noted 82% of students who had tanned indoors reported suffered at least one sunburn during the year before. Comparatively, 53% of students who did not engage in indoor tanning said they experienced at least one sunburn the year prior to the study.

Indoor tanning and sunburns increase the risk of developing skin cancer, especially during adolescence and young adulthood. One severe sunburn can double a child’s risk of skin cancer.

Despite a steady stream of studies and findings that highlight the link between indoor tanning and skin cancer, prior research has suggested that many young white women ignore the risks, with other studies highlighting the increasing rates of melanoma diagnoses among women under the age of 30.

A study published last year indicated women who tan indoors before the age of 30 have a six times higher risk of developing skin cancer.


Another study indicated tanning bed use can be very addicting for teens and adults alike. This is why many are calling for stricter federal tanning regulations to protect the nation’s youth from the risk.

Despite decreased indoor tanning rates, previous research has indicated the incidence of skin cancer is increasing in the U.S.

In 2015, there were nearly 2.4 million cases of skin cancer from all causes, with more than 264,000 linked to indoor tanning resulting in a total lifetime cost of $127 billion for those patients.


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