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800% Increase in Female Melanoma Likely Tied to Tanning Beds

Greater awareness of the dangers of indoor tanning is likely needed in light of new research suggesting that both melanoma and ultraviolet (UV) exposure are on the rise, especially among young white women and girls in the United States.1

Data presented at the 2019 American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Summer Meeting in New York indicated that rates of melanoma increased by 800% between 1970 to 2009 among US women aged 18 to 39 years.1

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.2 In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 82,476 new cases of melanomas of the skin and 8188 deaths associated with melanomas of the skin.2

Ever-use of indoor tanning services is associated with a 20% increase in lifetime melanoma risk, and this risk doubles if use begins before age 35 years.3 However, not everyone who uses tanning beds understands the risks, said board-certified dermatologist M. Laurin Council, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Washington University in St. Louis, in a press release.1

“Because there’s a delay between UV exposure and when skin cancer appears, most women don’t think it will happen to them,” said Dr Council in a press release.1 “This data reveals the disproportionate rise in the number of skin cancers in women and the need for further education regarding UV exposure.”1

Research has indicated a lack of awareness of the risks of UV exposure via indoor tanning among some parents of adolescents as well. A study presented last year at the 2018 AAD Annual Meeting indicated that fathers who do not receive skin cancer prevention counseling from their adolescents’ physician are less likely to recognize the harms of indoor tanning.

To help increase awareness of the risks of indoor tanning and other forms of UV exposure, it is important for dermatologists and related providers to:

  • Discuss the risks of tanning beds and other forms of UV exposure with patients.
  • Encourage parents to discuss the risks of tanning beds and other forms of UV exposure with children and adolescents.
  • For outdoor sun exposure, promote sun-protective behaviors like sunscreen use, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade among all patients.

—Christina Vogt


1. Spike in female skin cancer rates reveals alarming tanning trends [press release]. New York, NY. American Academy of Dermatology. July 25, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.

2. U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, based on November 2018 submission data (1999-2016): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute. June 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.

3. Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012;345:e4757.

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