The tanning booth industry has a problem. Their product causes cancer. You don’t have to take my word for it, trust the World Health Organization. It is officially on their list of known carcinogens. This is an issue which patients have actually argued with me about. Young women especially often believe that there is no danger to tanning booth usage and this is because the people who own and operate these machines tell them so. Nobody promotes a product by telling you it causes cancer. Many states have now passed laws that do not allow underage teens to visit a tanning booth without the consent of a guardian. I recently had a teen from Fort Mill,South Carolina who admitted to using tanning booths since she was 15. She has many scary moles and “only” went to the booths once a week, while many of her friends were going three times per week.

I have had patients that own tanning salons and they usually do not go into the booths. They know the dangers and the severe photo-damage that comes with tanning. They usually tell me that they are smarter than their clients. The problem is that people falsely believe that they are safe and they often develop an addiction to the tanning rays. This addiction is well documented and many patients will readily admit to it. This tends to be more of a winter issue and is likely related to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I even had a young woman from Ballantyne recently trying to convince me that she is doing the smart thing going to indoor tanning. She was not very convincing.

As a dermatologist their is no doubt in my mind that younger and younger patients are developing scarier moles and melanoma. I had a patient in my New York practice who had a melanoma at the age of 18. She was a frequent visitor to the tanning booths and had even worked at one. She had used the booths DAILY as they were free for employees. Happily she had an early melanoma and is one of the lucky melanoma survivors. But the lesson was learned and she tried spreading the word to her friends. Most went less frequently, but still kept tanning. Even seeing a scar on their pals couldn’t change their minds completely.

So if you tan or care about someone who does, just ask them not to. Have them Google “Tanning” and “World Health Organization”. They might learn a lesson that could save their lives.