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Preventing Skin Cancer by Reducing Indoor Tanning

If current trends continue, one in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime. People who use tanning beds are more likely to get skin cancer, including melanoma (which can be deadly).

To bring attention to indoor tanning as a public health problem, CDC scientists published two papers in a special issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine to discuss ways to reduce indoor tanning and prevent future cases of skin cancer.

The first paper, “Preventing Skin Cancer Through Reduction of Indoor Tanning: Current Evidence,” led by Meg Watson, explains how indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer and discusses possible ways to reduce the use of tanning beds.

The second paper, “Strategies to Reduce Indoor Tanning: Current Research Gaps and Future Opportunities for Prevention,” led by Dawn Holman, presents highlights from a meeting on indoor tanning held by CDC in August 2012, during which participants talked about ways to prevent skin cancer and studies that could be done to inform public health action.

In these two papers, the researchers note that—

  • One in three white women between 18 and 21 years of age have tanned indoors in the past 12 months, with an average of more than 27 times per year.
  • Many U.S. high school students also use tanning beds often. About half of high school indoor tanners use them 10 or more times per year.
  • Nearly three-fourths of tanning salons let people use tanning beds too often.
  • State laws on indoor tanning are rarely enforced.

Recent changes in existing or proposed legislation might affect indoor tanning—

  • In May 2013, the U.S. FDA has proposed a rule that would strengthen regulation of tanning beds.
  • Some states and municipalities have passed or are considering passing laws making it illegal for children and teens to use tanning beds, or to use them without their parent or guardian being present.
  • Some states and municipalities have passed other laws, like requiring tanning salons to have a license and to make sure people who use tanning beds wear goggles to protect their eyes and only tan for a short time.

Any new regulations or laws will probably be more effective if combined with education and other efforts.


Watson M, Holman DM, Fox KA, Guy GP Jr, Seidenberg AB, Sampson BP, Sinclair C, Lazovich D. Preventing skin cancer through reduction of indoor tanning: current evidence. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2013;44(6):682–689.

Holman DM, Fox KA, Glenn JD, Guy GP Jr, Watson M, Baker K, Cokkinides V, Gottlieb M, Lazovich D, Perna FM, Sampson BP, Seidenberg AB, Sinclair C, Geller AC. Strategies to reduce indoor tanning: current research gaps and future opportunities for prevention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2013;44(6):672–681.