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Suncare Sundays: Tanning Beds are Not Safer Than the Sun

Tanning beds are NOT safer than the sun.1

More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning.2

Melanoma is the second most common cancer in females age 15-29.3

Tanning = DNA injury to your skin4

Skin exposed to UV radiation increases production of melanin to protect the skin from further damage. The increased melanin causing the tan color change is a sign of DNA damage.5

The extra melanin in tanned skin provides an estimated Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of about 2 to 4; far below the minimum recommended SPF of 30.5,6

Damage from tanning can accelerate skin aging.7 An estimated 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun.8

Studies have not shown that everyday sunscreen use leads to vitamin D insufficiency. Food, supplements and incidental, protected sun exposure are considered safer ways to get needed Vitamin D.9

Skin damage starts with your very first tan.4

Each time you tan, the damage builds up, creating the possibility for more genetic mutations and greater risk.4

Experts estimate a 75% increased risk of developing life-threatening melanoma from just one indoor tanning session before age 35.4

Quit (or never start) Indoor Tanning

42 states and the District of Columbia either ban or regulate indoor tanning by minors under 18.10

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that if no one younger than 18 years of age ever used a tanning bed, we could prevent about 61K melanomas and nearly 7K deaths due to melanoma over the lifetime of the 61.2 million children age 14 and younger in the U.S.1 

Sun Safe Tips

    • Avoid tanning beds – there’s no such thing as a safe tanning bed, tanning booth, or sun lamp.1
    • Limit time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
    • Use sunscreen to protect your skin from burning UV rays, NOT to stay out in the sun longer.
    • Use a sunless tanner to achieve the desired skin look, but you’ll still need to practice sun safe behavior including proper use of sunscreen.

To learn more about the risks of tanning, see the infographic below. 

tanning beds

We encourage all healthcare practitioners to download, print and display this infographic in waiting areas and exam rooms, and share with patients.

For additional resources and products that can help you promote sun-safe behavior in your patients, visit

Access to 2 recent JDD CME podcasts below:

Science of Sun Protection

Understanding & Changing Patient Behavior


    1. 10 surprising facts about indoor tanning. Accessed July 13, 2021.
    2. Wehner MR, Chren MM, Nameth D, et al. International prevealence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol 2014; 150(4):390-400. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.
    3. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program 18 registries. Data run July 25, 2018 Skin cancer. Accessed August 2, 2021.
    4. Tanning and Your Skin. Accessed July 13, 2021.
    5. The Risks of Tanning | FDA. Accessed July 13, 2021.
    6. Sunscreen FAQs ( Accessed July 26, 2021.
    7. 11 ways to reduce premature skin aging ( Accessed August 2, 2021.
    8. Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics – The Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed August 2, 2021.
    9. Sun Protection and Vitamin D – The Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed July13, 2021.
    10. Indoor Tanning Legislation: Here’s Where We Stand – The Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed July 13,

Did you enjoy this article? Find more on sun protection here.

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