Claim: Tanning devices cost US healthcare $343 million a year

Check out our 10 myths on tanning.

The media release is below.

The impact of tanning (and tanning salons) on skin cancer rates is subject to debate.


  1. Myth: Tanning is just not worth the risk
  2. Myth: There is no safe exposure to UV radiation
  3. Myth: UV radiation causes melanoma
  4. Myth: The World Health Organization has determined that indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma
  5. Myth: There is an epidemic of melanoma
  6. Myth: Melanoma is epidemic among young women
  7. Myth: Melanoma is epidemic among teenage girls
  8. Myth: Tanning beds are more dangerous than the sun
  9. Myth: Indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma by 75%
  10. Myth: All studies show that indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma
  11. Myth: Tanning provides no health benefits.


Tanning devices cost US healthcare $343 million a year
New study says indoor tanning-related skin cancers contribute significantly to early deaths


Tanning devices cost the US $343.1 million a year in medical costs because of the skin cancers their use is associated with, according to a new study published in the Journal of Cancer Policy. In a new study, Dr. Hugh Waters and his colleagues from the University of North Carolina established how prevalent indoor tanning-related skin cancers are in the US, and calculated the costs of these diseases.

They estimate that in 2015 there were 263,600 cases of skin cancer that could be attributed to indoor tanning. These cases cost US $343.1 million in medical costs in 2015, and cause a total economic loss of $127 billion over the lifetime of the people affected. The authors conclude that effective policies and strategies are needed to reduce the use of tanning devices, in order to mitigate their significant health and financial impacts.

There is strong evidence that tanning devices cause skin cancer. They emit UV radiation; UV-A damages cells and DNA, causing skin cancer, and UV-B causes burning and contributes to skin cancer. In addition, there are several other diseases linked to indoor tanning, including dermatitis, keratitis and porokeratosis. Despite this, the proportion of people in the US who use indoor tanning devices has risen over the last 20 years; an estimated 30 million people now use the devices at least once a year, in the approximately 25,000 tanning salons across the country.

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US and its incidence is increasing, due in part to the increase in the use of tanning devices,” said Dr. Waters. “We know these devices have significant health and financial impacts, and with this study we wanted to establish these impacts clearly to support efforts to reduce their use, especially among younger people.”

The researchers focused on three types of skin cancer: cutaneous melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. They identified the total number of cases in the US in 2015 and worked out how many of these cases were likely due to the use of tanning devices, by using data on prevalence of use of tanning devices and previously published estimates of relative risk – the likelihood of having the disease for people who use tanning devices compared to people who don’t. There were 9,000 cases of melanoma, 86,600 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and 168,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma that could be attributed to the use of tanning devices.

They then estimated the healthcare cost of these cases, based on the average annual cost of treating patients with each of the diseases. This resulted in an estimated cost of US $343.1 million a year in medical costs. By working out the years of potential life lost due to the diseases, and the average lost earnings per person, they also determined the cost of working time missed due to the conditions. These productivity losses amounted to US $127 billion over the lifetime of the people who had the conditions attributable do tanning devices in 2015.

“Our calculations are all conservative, so this is the lower end of the estimate – the impact could be even higher than this,” said Dr. Waters. “Tanning devices cause hundreds of thousands of people to suffer a number of different diseases, costing billions of dollars and, most importantly, people’s lives. We hope that our results will help in the efforts toward reducing the use of tanning devices.”


8 thoughts on “Claim: Tanning devices cost US healthcare $343 million a year”

  1. The spirit of Don Quixote marches on! Since global warming, they can’t attack windmills so they had to turn to tanning beds.

  2. I laugh when “costs” are attributed to any risky behavior and/or exposure being discussed. If someone avoids indoor tanning and eventually dies (as we all apparently do) of other causes is there any information about the medical costs of such deaths and how they compare to the costs of deaths linked to the behavior under discussion?

  3. Personally, I would like to see more Junk Science that lends itself to featuring photos of bikini babes.

    With respect to the “science”, I wouldn’t normally care as I don’t use a tanning device. But since we’ve let government into our health decisions, I’m forced to care.

    I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot do with my health. I want to chose my life goals and decide what risks are worth taking. Life does NOT last forever, and the value of my life is largely a subjective assessment.

    If I let another decide the value of my life and tell me what I can and cannot do, the parallels with slavery become very disturbing.

  4. I’m not going to try to find a reference, but I was taught a long time ago that MOST cases of melanoma could be traced to a severe sunburn as an infant. Which would make the suggestion that tanning beds cause melanoma preposterous.

    Tanning beds are a convenient way to get uv exposure. Should they be banned, people will seek less convenient means of getting uv esposure. Less convenience could easily result in over exposure. Tanning beds allow precise dosage.

  5. “I believe that economists put decimal points in their forecasts to show they have a sense of humor.” – William Gilmore Simms

  6. They estimated the # of skin cancer cases attributed. So they didn’t even see if ANY of the skin cancer patients actually indoor tanned. But that’s ok…they can still attribute those to their pre-selected cause and then attribute a cost factor. Maybe I can publish a study saying 263,000 cancers can be attributed to radiation from televisions tuned to MSNBC. Therefore, watching MSNBC has generated $341mil a year in health treatment costs.

  7. You would think they could define the “type” of skin or ethnicity that is more susceptible to cancer rather than using gross numbers that don’t point to specific groups or reasons for those groups getting cancer.

    The British have skin that is as bad as their teeth. Scots freckle. The closer you get to the ecuador, the more melanin found in the skin and thus less cancer concerns. There are many varieties in our skin types yet no one has bothered to define who is most at risk.

    Is there a time and power level on tanning booths that can be dialed in for skin quality and still give a decent tan? And of those who are suspected of getting cancer, who would have died and who would have ended up with a big non-lethal freckle?

    Numbers are always exaggerated to build support for study. There is so little detail in this study as to be useless. No one is going to be scared away from tanning booths if they are not specifically targeted as a group that has been identified as needing special treatment.

  8. “ We hope that our results will help in the efforts toward reducing the use of tanning devices.”

    My Body. My Business. My insurance claim. My doctor’s healthy bank balance. My User Pays medicine. My taxes. My responsibility. My God loves me tanned.

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