The Debate Over Indoor Tanning Continues

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Indoor tanning, available at many salons around the country, has been linked to skin cancer in a number of research studies. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a ban on indoor tanning for anyone under the age of 18. Some states, such as California, have started instituting laws prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning facilities.


    The Suntanning Association


    But indoor tanning is big business. According to NBC News, it has continued to grow over the last three years and it is expected that as people will spend as much as $5 billion by 2017. [1] With that much business on the line, the industry is fighting back against what it calls “The Sun Scare.” A new organization, The American Suntanning Association (ASA), is made up of 1,400 tanning salons, plans on launching a new public relations campaign to debunk claims from medical experts about the dangers of indoor tanning.

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    The ASA released a statement saying, “Indoor tanning has been accused of causing melanoma and other forms of skin cancer by the World Health Organization and others based on quasi-scientific reports that the ASA believes are flawed and biased.” [2] Their new PR campaign is meant to “challenge the incorrect and misleading statements being made against us.” [2] Specifically, their goals are to:

    • Convince the FDA that current regulations are sufficient to protect the public
    • Persuade the CDC to no longer be “anti-tanning”
    • Persuade the NIH to further research Vitamin D and the role it plays in health
    • Prevent any further states from initiating bans on tanning in those under the age of 18
    • To loosen regulations on advertising of the tanning industry to allow them to advertise the health benefits of tanning
    • Convince the government that there is a serious Vitamin D deficiency problem in the United States and that indoor tanning can help individuals get the proper amount of Vitamin D

    Global Strategy Group, a high-profile public relations firm has been hired to help carry out the campaign. Other clients of the PR company include Goldman Sachs, General Electric and the New York Yankees.


    The Dermatologists’ Stance


    The American Academy of Dermatology released a statement with their views on the ASA’s press release and public relations campaign, saying, “The recent statements by the American Suntanning Association are ridiculous and there is no data to support them. Indoor tanning is dangerous. There is compelling scientific evidence published in peer-reviewed medical journals demonstrating that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.” [3]


    Jerod Stapleton, an assistance professor of medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in an article on NBCNews, said he doesn’t see the merit in many of the studies the ASA uses to promote tanning. Stapleton states that these studies are not peer reviewed, have methodological flaws and cherry pick which data to use. They are also funded by the indoor suntanning industry rather than by neutral research labs.


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    Another claim by the ASA, that there is an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency because of dermatologists scaring people to stay out of the sun, is also disputed. The ASA believes that this could cause serious and widespread health problems, however, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Science indicates that there isn’t enough evidence to show there is an epidemic of vitamin d deficiency or that it helps in any other health other than bone health.


    Indoor tanning should be used with care. Study after study has shown a link between using tanning salons and an increased risk of developing skin cancer. If you do plan on using these salons, talk with your doctor about the risks and what you can do to protect your skin.




    [3] “American Academy of Dermatology’s Statement Regarding the American Suntanning Association,” 2013, Jan 7, Daniel M. Siegel, M.D. ,F.A.A.D. The American Academy of Dermatology


    [2] “American Suntanning Association,” 2013,


    [1] “Dermatologists Blast Tanning Industry Campaign to Play Down Skin Cancer Fears,”  2013, Jan 22, Bridget Huber, Fair Warning, NBCNews

Published On: January 23, 2013