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Learn more on the risks of indoor tanning

The World Health Organization classifies indoor tanning devices as Class 1 human carcinogens – in other words, indoor tanning causes skin cancer. Class 1 includes other known causes of cancer like tobacco and asbestos.

Indoor tanning beds, tanning booths and sun lamps all expose you to intense Ultraviolet Radiation or UVR to tan your skin. The sun also emits UVR. But indoor tanning devices emit much higher doses of UVR than the sun. In fact, the UVR exposure from an indoor tanning device is stronger than the midday sun with a UV index of 13 to 15. And that’s extreme! Protection is needed outside when the UV index is 3 or higher.

What is UVR?

UVR (Ultraviolet Radiation) is part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun and indoor tanning devices. It’s not like the sun’s light, which we see, or the sun’s warmth, which we feel. You can’t see or feel UVR.

Skin cells are damaged by UVR

UVR also causes the skin damage that leads to wrinkles, loss of elasticity in the skin and brown spots - you’ll look older than you are. UVR exposure also damages the DNA of skin cells. If the body’s repair systems fail and the damaged sections of DNA are not replaced, cancer can start developing.

Indoor tanning myths

In a recent survey:

64.2% of young adults said that “to gain a protective base tan” was a somewhat or very important reason for indoor tanning" 

58.8% of young adults said that they believe “getting an indoor tan first gives people good protection from the sun"

Myths busted

A base tan is a sign of skin damage

You may think that as long as you don’t burn, your skin is safe. But a tan, whether you get it on the beach or in a tanning bed, is a sign of skin damage. A base tan is simply adding UVR exposure and skin damage before even going outside in the sun.

Indoor tanning is NOT a safe or healthy alternative

Indoor tanning beds, tanning booths and sun lamps can cause cancer.

Indoor tanning is NOT healthy or safe in moderation

Every trip to an indoor tanning session increases the risk of developing skin cancer. And the risk goes up the longer and more often someone uses an indoor tanning device. Building up a tan over time does not make it healthy. A tan is a sign of skin damage. Every exposure to UVR counts.

Tanning indoors in a tanning bed Is NOT safer than tanning outdoors

Indoor tanning devices emit doses of UVR that are much higher than doses you’d get from the sun. The UVR intensity from a trip to the tanning bed is the same as an extremely high UV index of 13 to 15. New tanning bulbs have not been shown to be any safer than older versions.


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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2014. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/prevent-skin-cancer/call-to-action-prevent-skin-cancer.pdf

Wehner MR, Chren M, Nameth D, et al. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol.2014;150(4):390-400.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4117411/pdf/nihms-604493.pdf