BACKGROUND Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) results in a darkening of the skin known as tanning. Recently, it has been shown that tanning is a response to UVR-induced DNA damage and represents the skin's efforts to protect itself against further injury. Despite the link between UVR and cutaneous malignancy, people continue to pursue tanning from natural and artificial sources. This trend is reflected in the exponential rise in skin cancer incidence.
OBJECTIVE The objective of this study was to review our current understanding of the factors controlling the tanning response and the relationship to cutaneous carcinogenesis, as well as the impact that the multibillion dollar tanning industry has had on the practice of dermatology.
MATERIALS AND METHODS Extensive literature review was conducted in subjects related to tanning and the relationship to cutaneous malignancy.
RESULTS Our knowledge of tanning and its effects on the skin has increased tremendously. It is clear that tanning contributes to the development of skin cancer. Despite this information, the incidence of skin cancer continues to increase exponentially.
CONCLUSIONS Skin cancer poses a major public health concern and tanning remains the most modifiable risk factor in its etiology. Social, economic, and legislative issues have become tightly intertwined with the complex nature of human behavior in the continued pursuit of an activity that clearly has detrimental effects on one's health.