Are Tanning Beds Worth It?

Unfortunately, I am guilty of conforming to the pressures of tanning memberships. Growing up, my dad had always been extremely adamant about skin care and avoiding tanning salons at all costs – no,  I did not listen. However, despite the fact that I did not listen to his advice, I still remained curious about the repercussions of my prom tanning memberships. So, as much as it pains me to face the facts, here’s some info I uncovered:

The Study

Richard P. GallagherJohn J. Spinelli and Tim K. Lee gathered and created a meta-analysis of 10 applicable case studies from 1984-2004. They evaluated the outcomes of the studies of subjects who have used tanning beds or sunlamps, compared to subjects that have never been exposed. 

Hypothesis/Causation: Subjects that have been exposed to tannings beds will have an increased risk of melanoma

Null Hypothesis: Subjects exposed to tanning beds will have no correlation to risk of melanoma

Reverse Causation: Subjects with melanoma will have an increased exposure to tanning beds

Third Confounding Variables: Family health history

The Results

After careful evaluation, researchers found that the meta-analysis suggests a significant correlation between tanning bed/lamp exposure and risk of melanoma – supporting the hypothesis. Because this study was in fact, a meta-analysis, it makes it unlikely that the results were a false positive.

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Other Facts

After finding the (anticipated) results of the smaller scale meta-analysis, I stumbled across some various other stats and percentages from the Melanoma Research Foundation to let reality sink in a little deeper:

  • 90% of melanoma cases are likely to be caused by UV radiation.
  • If you are under the age of 30, using a tanning bed increases your chance of developing melanoma by 75 percent.
  • Tanning salons and tanning bed companies typically brand their product to offer customers a way of getting Vitamin D through artificial tanning – however, most beds typically emit UVA Radiation, not UVB (the vitamin D source).


Tanning as a Behavioral Addiction?

Each year after buying a tanning package, I found myself literally craving to go to the tanning salon after school – seeking the warmth, and really just those couple of minutes of solidarity. Well, I’m not alone – in fact, researchers have actually been studying artificial tanning as a behavioral addiction. In this study, researchers reviewed addiction to tanning in association with substance abuse / anxiety and depression.

The Study

In this study of 421 college students, subjects voluntarily filled out questionnaires: CAGE, used for alcohol abuse, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used for substance abuse. 229 of the the 421 students said they had artificially tanned before. I feel as though in this study there could have been multiple third confounding variables (like tanning frequency or even family health history and if that could play a role in addictive personalities), and in order to provide more developed results, I think the test group should have been far larger. Out of those 229, 30.6% met the criteria for CAGE, and 39.3% met the criteria of the Diagnostic of Mental Disorders. To me, I read that as 1/3 of subjects actually tested to be addicted to tanning – how crazy is that?!


Though most of us are already painfully pale for the season, a typical logical student at Penn State should review these facts and studies and see the risks are far greater than any benefit, aside from golden skin.


“Why Is Tanning Dangerous?” Melanoma Research Foundation. N.p., 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Gallagher, Richard, John Spinelli, and Tim Lee. “Tanning Beds, Sunlamps, and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma.” Tanning Beds, Sunlamps, and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma | Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. N.p., Mar. 2005. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Mosher, PhD Catherine E. “Addiction to Indoor TanningRelation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use.” Addiction to Indoor TanningRelation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use | Depressive Disorders | JAMA Dermatology | The JAMA Network. N.p., 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

1 thought on “Are Tanning Beds Worth It?

  1. Jen Malespina

    As I sit here reading this, pale as ever, I am upset seeing these facts. I’ve always known that tanning beds are not good for you and can immensely increase your risk of developing skin cancer but this hasn’t stopped me from going every year before prom and still being tempted to go even now. Instead of focusing on the negatives, here is an article listing some benefits to tanning beds:

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