An Unhealthy Glow

tanning bed

Indoor tanning amps cancer risks – and we’re taking action

Indoor tanning has become wildly popular among high schoolers headed for prom and college students bound for the beach.

But if concerned legislators have their way, Illinois will soon become one of the first states to adopt a total ban on indoor tanning for everyone under age 18.

The searing truth behind the proposed law: tanning booths deliver 10 to 15 times the UV radiation of natural sunlight, boosting the user’s risk of developing deadly melanoma by at least 75%.

“I remind teens and parents that 15 to 30 minutes in the booth equals a whole afternoon by the pool,” says dermatologist Sean Burke, MD, one of hundreds of medical partners working with us statewide to spread the word on indoor tanning dangers.

Risks doubled, even tripled

A 2010 study by the American Cancer Society showed that frequent users of tanning beds – those who tan for at least 50 hours, 100 sessions or 10 years – are two to three times likelier to develop melanoma than those who never tan indoors.

That’s what makes the “gym, tan, laundry” message young people see on TV so troubling, Dr. Burke says. “There’s even evidence that indoor tanning causes a feeling of euphoria, which can lead to a pattern of addiction,” he says.

Hollywood can help

Parents, teachers and youth leaders can make a difference by opening a dialogue with kids. Surprisingly, the example set by major celebrities may actually help.

“Take a closer look at fashion magazines,” Dr. Burke suggests. “You won’t see superstars like Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger with a tan. They’re well aware that sun damage causes wrinkles, early aging and cancer. They set a healthy standard of beauty we can all live with.”

For more on helping the young people in your life manage their risks for skin cancer, visit



Even before the current push for indoor tanning legislation, the American Cancer Society had intensified its efforts to reach young people with messages about sun safety.

Last year in Illinois we joined with the American Academy of Dermatology to engage more than 17,000 teens and young adults through our “Tanning: The Real Truth” program, which stresses these startling facts:

  • Skin cancer touches two million Americans every year – more than breast, lung, colon, prostate, ovarian, uterine and pancreatic cancers combined.
  • Indoor tanning elevates risks for deadly melanoma, regardless of the type of tanning device used.

To find out how your school, college, faith or community group can empower kids by presenting “Tanning: The Real Truth,” contact Jennifer Briggs at the American Cancer Society.