New Study: Tanning Beds Increase U.S. Health Costs By $343 Million A Year

You have probably heard a lot lately about health care reform even if you don’t actively pay attention to the news.  This recent wave of current events, added to a new study that came across my desk and my unyielding opposition to tanning booths, makes the subject of this blog post all the more timely.

A recent study in the Journal of Cancer Policy, published on February 28 of this year, calculated that skin cancers caused by indoor tanning resulted in direct medical costs to the healthcare system of $343 million per year.  Note that this estimate results solely from artificial indoor tanning, not outdoor tanning.

The authors noted that prior to this study, they knew that indoor tanning was damaging to health and can cause cancer.  However, before this study, there was no comprehensive documentation of the healthcare costs to specifically treat the conditions caused by tanning beds.

The researchers estimated the average costs to treat various skin malignancies, including melanoma, squamus, and basal cell carcinomas.  They also included the increased cancer risk associated with tanning beds to make their calculations.

In 2015, when the researchers first began the study, tanning beds were linked to:

  • 8,947 cases of melanoma
  • more than 168,000 cases of squamous cell cancer
  • 86,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma

These are pretty scary numbers when you consider that an estimated 30 million Americans use tanning beds at least once a year at the estimated 25,000 tanning salon locations in the United States.

The researchers did note that they are probably underestimating the costs, as they are not including the long-term medical costs associated with follow-up doctor visits and any additional care that may be needed over their lifetime.  In addition, they did not calculate the costs of lost productivity or early death especially associated with malignant melanoma.

My editorial comment would also be to note that these cost estimates do not include the financial burden of treating the non-cancer effects of ultraviolet exposure.  Every day at Maine Laser Skin Care, I treat facial veins, age or sunspots, and loss of collagen that directly result from both sun and indoor tanning.

While the non-cancer effects of ultraviolet exposure (i.e. sunlight) can be treated to a point, no treatment can restore your skin to 100% of your previous youthful status.  As with a lot of other aspects of medicine, prevention is the best approach.

Avoid tanning beds like the plague!  Going to a tanning salon voluntarily is inviting longer-term trouble for a very transient cosmetic effect which actually is damaging your skin.

Obviously, when it comes to naturally tanning outdoors, protecting your skin with sunscreen on a daily basis 365 days a year will keep damage to a minimum.  And, as I have said and written many times over and over again in the past, just say NO to tanning!

While cosmetic skin damage can be embarrassing, skin cancer literally kills and can result in ongoing costs and risk over your lifetime.  If you need any further evidence to stop ultraviolet damage to your skin, you can consider this study.

As always, if you have any questions about your skin, and to see if your tanning related damage can be helped by the latest advances in modern technology, please give us a call at (207) 873-2158 for a free, individualized and confidential consultation.

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