More than a quarter million cases of skin cancer throughout the United States in 2015 appear to be attributable to indoor tanning, according to the findings of new research, which suggests that the use of tanning beds may cost the U.S. healthcare system hundreds of millions of dollars.
A study published this week in The Journal of Cancer Policy indicates that in 2015, there were 2.4 million cases of skin cancer from all causes, with more than 264,000 specifically linked to the use of indoor tanning.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina estimate the total cost associated with new skin cancer cases throughout the U.S. in 2015 was $343 million. They also estimate the total economic cost over the lifetime of those patients will reach $127 billion, with $125 million in lost productivity.
The authors note the calculations were on the conservative end, according to an Elsevier press release issued to announce the findings. The true cost overall could be even higher, as researchers indicate 30 million people use indoor tanning devices at least once a year.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and incidence of skin cancer has risen over the last 20 years. A recent study indicated that melanoma rates for women under 30 have increased by 74% due to tanning bed use.
Prior research has confirmed that the ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by indoor tanning devices increases the risk of skin cancer, and the World Health Organization has labeled UV rays a carcinogen, warning that radiation from tanning beds is more concentrated than that from the sun, penetrating deep into the skin and causing skin damage.
In an earlier study published in 2012, indoor tanning was linked to 170,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year.
In this latest report, researchers suggest the number may be substantially higher, calling for effective tanning bed policies and strategies to help reduce use, especially among teens and young adults.
These recommendations echo a 2015 call by doctors for stricter federal tanning bed regulations, in an effort to protect the nation’s youth from this dangerous practice. However, experts warn that reducing tanning bed use may be a challenge considering studies have revealed tanning bed use to be a very addictive for many.
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US and its incidence is increasing, due in part to the increase in the use of tanning devices,” Dr. Hugh Waters, the lead study author, said in the press release. “We know these devices have significant health and financial impacts, and with this study we wanted to establish these impacts clearly to support efforts to reduce their use, especially among younger people.”
There are approximately 25,000 tanning salons in the country. A study published in 2014 revealed there were more tanning salons in Florida than McDonald’s restaurants.