The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies UV tanning beds in the highest cancer risk category "Carcinogenic to Humans." (1)
Whether you get a tan outside or in a tanning bed, you are exposing your skin to damaging ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Too much UVR causes skin cancer.
Tanning is your skin's natural defense against damaging UVR from the sun and tanning beds. Your skin darkens to try to block the rays from reaching the deeper layers of your skin. The tanner you are, the more damage you are doing to your skin!
Just one indoor tanning session increases a person’s chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent. (2)
Using a tanning bed before age 35 increase a person’s risk for melanoma by 75 percent. (3)
Tanning also causes:
- Premature aging of the skin
- Redness, blotches, or yellowing of the skin
- Leathery skin, wrinkles and sagging skin
- Freckles, age spots and liver spots
- A weakened immune system
Twin on left has excess UV exposure. Twin on right has minimal UV exposure.
Tanning Myths Debunked
- Indoor tanning is not safer than tanning in the sun. Both indoor tanning and tanning outside can cause skin cancer.
- A base tan is not a safe tan. Any darkening of the skin is causing damage to skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.
- Indoor tanning is not a good way to get vitamin D. Eat a diet rich in vitamin D (milk, eggs, fish) and taking a daily supplement if needed. See our brochure on vitamin D.
More resources on tanning
For more information on indoor tanning, visit:
For the latest information on state laws for indoor tanning, visit:
For information on policies and practices for indoor tanning among minors, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- El Ghissassi F, Baan R, Straif K, et al. Special report: policy. A review of human carcinogens—part D: radiation. The Lancet 2009; 10(8):751-752. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/2009/sunbeds_uvradiation.php
Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345:e4757. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4757
Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly-exposed population. Cancer Epidem Biomar Prev 2010 June; 19(6):1557-1568.