Tanning Devices – Fast Track to Skin Cancer?


* Address reprint requests to Antony R. Young, St John's Institute of Dermatology, Guy's, King's and St Thomas’ School of Medicine, King's College London, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7EH, UK. E-mail: antony.r.young@kcl.ac.uk


The use of UVB and/or UVA emitting devices for cosmetic tanning is widespread in Western populations including young people and is especially prevalent in females. Several epidemiological studies, although not all, have shown a significant relationship between the use of tanning devices and malignant melanoma after, in some cases, adjustment for confounding factors such as solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure. A relationship between solar exposure, especially intermittent exposure, and malignant melanoma is well established so it is not surprising that a similar connection has been reported for the use of tanning devices. Several epidemiological studies show that childhood exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for malignant melanoma and this may also be the case for the use of tanning devices, especially if sunburns are obtained. Some studies have evaluated the relationship between the use of tanning devices and non-melanoma skin cancer and at least one has suggested an association. The use of tanning devices by a substantial minority of young people is a worrying trend in terms of a likely increased incidence of malignant melanoma, and possibly non-melanoma cancers in the future. Although two recent reviews by epidemiologists conclude that a clear link between tanning devices and malignant melanoma is yet to be proven, there is a strong case for effective legislation to prohibit the use of tanning devices by people under 18 yr of age.