Although some people may think that using indoor tanning beds can be safe if used with certain precautions or in certain situations, 2 recent studies suggest that tanning is still associated with an increased risk of melanoma.
The first study, published online on March 12, 2014, in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, analyzed observational studies of melanoma patients who had used tanning beds. Studies were obtained from Scopus, MEDLINE, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature to update previous evidence that links indoor tanning with melanoma. The researchers assessed whether newer tanning beds or the frequency of use affected the risk for melanoma.
In total, 31 studies were included in the analysis, providing data on 14,956 melanoma cases and 233,106 controls. Compared with individuals who had never used indoor tanning beds, the odds ratio for melanoma among individuals who had used tanning beds was 1.16. Similar risk was found in more recent studies conducted from 2000 to the present, suggesting that newer tanning beds are not any safer than older models. The strongest associations between tanning and melanoma risk were found among individuals who had used tanning beds more than 10 times, resulting in an odds ratio of 1.34.
The second study, published online on May 28, 2014, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, evaluated a theory that some indoor tanners believe to be true: tanning indoors before sun exposure prevents sunburn and subsequently lowers skin cancer risk. A total of 1167 melanoma patients from a case-control study on indoor tanning and melanoma risk were matched to 1101 controls. All participants completed a questionnaire and a telephone interview about family history of melanoma, sun exposure, sunscreen use, and sunburn history.
The results indicated that indoor tanning was associated with an increased risk of melanoma, even among patients who said they had never been sunburned. After adjusting for potential confounders, melanoma patients who reported 0 sunburns were nearly 4 times more likely to be indoor tanners than control subjects. The study also found that melanoma patients who said they had never experienced sunburn began indoor tanning at younger ages and had been tanning for more years than patients who had experienced sunburn, suggesting that total exposure time may affect melanoma risk.
“These data provide evidence that indoor tanning is a risk factor for melanoma even among persons who reported never experiencing burns from indoor tanning or outdoor sun exposure,” the study authors conclude.