Tanning Salons – Big Business at Our Expense
Last updated: February 2023
Throughout my lifetime, trends and fads have come and gone. The eighties had great music, lots of good movies, and some interesting clothing choices. The music from that decade is now considered “oldies”, and many of the clothing styles have not been seen since that decade. One fad from the eighties that I wish would disappear is the tanning bed.
The invention of the tanning bed
Friedrich Wolff invented the tanning bed and began selling them in 1975. They were then introduced in the United States in 1979. Indoor tanning started gaining popularity between 1981 and 1982. Initially, tanning beds were in health and fitness facilities, but around 1982 or 1983, numerous tanning salons opened, making it far too convenient to get a fake tan.
This fad is an economic powerhouse
Unfortunately, tanning salons still haven’t gone out of style. According to the American Tanning Institute, there are 30,000 tanning salons in the United States, and tanning is one of the fastest-growing businesses across the U.S. The Institute lists the total economic impact of indoor tanning facilities at five billion dollars.
What they aren't telling you
I’m pretty sure those figures don't include the cost of medical treatment that those who frequent tanning salons might have to incur to treat skin cancer. A study from 2017 showed that the use of tanning beds results in over $343 million a year in medical bills.
It's far too common
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), 35% of adults have reported using a tanning bed in their lifetime, and 59% of college students have used a tanning bed. Nearly a third of those who have used a tanning bed started tanning before the age of 18.
A disturbing trend
I found it disturbing to read that 44.5% of those who started tanning before the age of 16 said they went tanning with a family member, usually their mother. Another statistic reported by the AAD is that nearly 70 percent of tanning salon customers are Caucasian girls and young women. It is not surprising to me, then, that melanoma is the second most common cancer in females age 15-29.
Why tanning beds are harmful
Ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds and sun lamps has been declared a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health. This is for good reason. It is estimated that indoor tanning causes over 400,000 skin cancers a year.
What's the relationship between skin cancer and tanning beds?
Using a tanning bed before the age of 35 can increase one’s chances of developing melanoma by 59%, and women younger than 30 who use tanning beds are six times more likely to develop melanoma. And, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, just one-time use of a tanning bed can increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%.
But wait, there's more...
In addition to skin cancer, indoor tanning can also cause wrinkles, leathery skin, and sunspots. If all this weren’t enough, the AAD reports that frequent exposure to UV light may lead to tanning addiction and that more than one-fifth of Caucasian women between the ages of 18-30 are indoor tanning dependent.
Let's put a stop to indoor tanning
Tanning salons can make a lot of money. If you go to the tanning salon, you are paying the price in more than one way. You pay now to tan, and you could be paying the price down the road for the damage you’re doing to your skin. Do yourself and all of us a favor, and skip the tanning salon.
What would you tell a friend who's still using tanning beds?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?