(HealthDay News) — Exposure to indoor tanning is common in Western countries, particularly among young persons, according to research published online on Jan. 29 in JAMA Dermatology.

“Indoor tanning is a World Health Organization group 1 carcinogen associated with malignant melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Prior studies have estimated that indoor tanning accounts for more than 3400 cases of melanoma each year in Europe and more than 170 000 cases of NMSC each year in the United States,” Mackenzie R. Wehner, of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues wrote. 

“The risk of all types of skin cancer is highest in those exposed at young ages, suggesting a susceptibility period in early life. Despite the mounting evidence of harms of indoor tanning, data on the scope of this problem, with which to guide public health efforts are missing.”

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Wehner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis to assess the international prevalence of exposure to indoor tanning.

The researchers found that the summary prevalence of ever exposure to indoor tanning among 406,696 participants was 55.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 33.0% to 77.1%) for university students, 35.7% (95% CI, 27.5% to 44.0%) for adults, and 19.3% (95% CI, 14.7% to 24.0%) for adolescents. 

The population proportional attributable risk associated with indoor tanning in Australia, Europe, and the United States was 3.0% to 21.8% (more than 450,000 cases per year) for nonmelanoma skin cancer and 2.6% to 9.4% (more than 10,000 cases per year) for melanoma.

“Given the large number of skin cancer cases attributable to indoor tanning, these findings highlight a major public health issue,” the researchers wrote.

One author disclosed financial ties to Genentech.


  1. Wehner MR, Chren MM, Nameth D, et al. International Prevalence of Indoor Tanning: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol. 2014;doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.