4

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Do Tanning Beds Cause Cancer?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 15, 2010 at 5:21 AM

I found this new study correlating malignant melanoma with tanning beds: http://www.suntanningedu.com/Weinstock_study_2010.pdf Some involved with paleo have suggested tanning beds might be a 'better than nothing' substitute for the sun when it comes to producing vitamin D. This study 'might' suggest otherwise. Of course, correlation does not imply causation. There could be other differences between tanning bed users and those who don't, but looks like the study was designed fairly well to try to control for confounders. (Not surprisingly (at least to those in the paleo community), the study did not find correlation between chronic outdoor sun exposure and malignant melanoma and mentions other studies with similar results suggesting that regular sun exposure is not correlated with malignant melanoma) I know that many in the paleo community are very research savvy and I am curious about opinions on this study and its conclusions. Can tanning beds be good for you in some circumstances?

1e58ba5c171a122541d8b4873f604327

(229)

on December 08, 2012
at 12:28 AM

This is pretty closed-minded.. . The same media that tells us that whole grains and low fat are good for us tells us that tanning is bad..... is a high fat diet a joke?

Medium avatar

(8239)

on November 06, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Agree, the conversation isn't the problem. :) I just get amazed that these tanning centers exist. Perhaps there are ways to use tanning beds at lower levels of intensity, comparable to ambient outdoor sunlight. I dread the impending melanoma statistics when the long-term damage of high-intensity tanning beds hits...

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 06, 2011
at 05:38 AM

Good points! We know enough to beware, but we don't know it all ...

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 06, 2011
at 03:13 AM

Since in this lifestyle it's considered good to get out into the sun, I don't see that it's so awful to start a conversation about tanning beds. That said, I agree with you that I would not consider getting inside one of them.

A535c4c4c7075f1c7182159c8c9f1619

(0)

on November 05, 2011
at 08:38 PM

This study like All study's to date related to Indoor Tanning is totally biased. They are all funded by people who make money by keeping us out of the sun and tanning beds. The National Cancer Institute admitted on their website this past June that it is " not known " if UV exposure indoors or out contributes to skin cancer.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 19, 2010
at 05:16 PM

On of my concerns about D supplementation alone is that sunlight actually creates other chemical reactions in the body, manufacturing other substances besides vit D, but the scientific community does not know the purpose or use in the body of those other substances. By taking D alone, you may still be missing out on some of sun's benefits. It may be an error to rely on supplements alone if you have the option of the real sun. I am lucky as I can get sun where I live so it's mostly academic for me, but others aren't so lucky.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 19, 2010
at 05:08 PM

This study attempted to control for type of tanning bed. I don't know if they succeeded accurately or not, but the fact remains that they found no sig diff between types of beds used. They also attempted to control for amount of tanning bed use and amounts of burns.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on July 17, 2010
at 04:12 PM

Eva: I think you might be confusing the message - it's not like using a tanning bed once immediately gives you sun cancer. The people who use tanning beds tend to do so for aesthetic reasons and likely over-expose themselves because of it, whereas someone using a tanning bed for vitamin D would both use a different kind of bed as well as probably not use it as much.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 17, 2010
at 04:47 AM

Part of the reason I am curious is BECAUSE of the things you are saying here. If Vit D is protective and tanning beds increase vit D so well, then why do tanning beds seem to not be protective when sun IS protective? Even when they controlled for type of tanning bed, they found all tanning beds to be not protective. NOt saying I think this is written in stone now, but I will be keeping an eye on this issue. If tanning beds are substantially worse than the sun, I think it's good to understand that.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 16, 2010
at 02:18 AM

I have no beef with the sun. My question is about tanning beds. Research seems to indicate that regular sun exposure is protective, but tanning beds are the reverse. For those groks living in places without much sun, this is an important issue to understand and it could also be an impt hint about how things work. Vit D sups might help some groks but we do not know all the things that the sun does in the skin. Research suggests vit D is not the only product created by the sun in the skin. We do not know what the other chemicals do in the body.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 15, 2010
at 11:21 PM

Take a look at actual rates of melanoma incidence, and melanoma mortality per say 100,000. It's a very trivial problem, any of the supposed benefits of D probably outweigh this small risk.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 15, 2010
at 04:32 PM

SOunds like the marketwire article is a bit biased as well. I see no reason why outdoor sun exposure benefits conflict with a premise that tanning beds may be bad. In addition, looks like the study did take data on type of tanning bed, outdoor sun exposure, sunburns, sunscreen use, etc and looked at them as potential confounders. Of course, that doens't mean I trust them blindly either. Most researchers have a bias.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 15, 2010
at 04:21 PM

When I took statistics, I was told that if predicted outcome was not statistically significant IN THE DIRECTION PREDICTED, then we were to report that no correlation was found. That is why you are supposed to give your predictions before you even start the data collection and are not allowed to change it later (although some do break that rule). There is a different type of number crunching used when looking for any correlation than when looking for a specific direction and that is also supposed to be decided before the data is collected.

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10 Answers

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2
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on July 17, 2010
at 01:59 PM

It's complex but I would say yes.

It is very hard to prove as you can't deliberately try to give people cancer by putting them on sunbeds a lot. People also vary individually a great deal in their risk from ultraviolet light. I wouldn't expect any conclusive research any time soon for these reasons. The best we are likely to get is correlations.

Ultraviolet light causes mutation in your DNA. Your body has ways to deal with this but it cannot be 100% repaired all of the time.

Sun beds vary in the radiation they produce but many are quite strong. It would be hard to get the same high degree of UV radiation on your entire body at once in sunch a short time from sunlight. For example I could see how a dose of UV light over 2 hours from the sun could be less harmful than the equivalent dose of uv in 10 minutes on a sunbed.

Things like sunbeds can be good for you (vitamin d) and bad for you (melanoma) at the same time. It seems like an unessesary risk to take if you care about your health. I'd rather get some sensible sun exposure when its there and take some vitamin d when its not.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 19, 2010
at 05:16 PM

On of my concerns about D supplementation alone is that sunlight actually creates other chemical reactions in the body, manufacturing other substances besides vit D, but the scientific community does not know the purpose or use in the body of those other substances. By taking D alone, you may still be missing out on some of sun's benefits. It may be an error to rely on supplements alone if you have the option of the real sun. I am lucky as I can get sun where I live so it's mostly academic for me, but others aren't so lucky.

5
Bcd1e569704ad7440cee7f053541f372

on July 17, 2010
at 03:08 AM

It is a shame that this Congress is doing everything backwards. moderate and controlled non-burning exposure to Sunshine would reduce Health Care costs, not add to it.

Vitamin D is produced in Human skin when exposed to UV rays, whether they come from the sun or an indoor sunbed.

There are millions of Americans who get burned, literally, from casual outdoor exposure on a daily basis. a recent study shows that up to 36% of US burn every year. There are no ???Sunburn Police??? at the local pools or beaches all summer, but every day you can see numbers of ???Lobster Red??? people after a day outside.

http://xr.com/36burn

The studies that make headlines recently do not bother to delve deeper into the numbers to see that those that work outdoors, or spend regular time outside actually reduce their risk for melanoma, a skin cancer mainly in Males and indoor workers.

People that use sunbeds are shown to have 90% higher levels of Vitamin D, 18% lowered PTH levels, and higher Bone density than those who do not.

http://xr.com/TangVitD

The actual numbers in melanoma are infinitesimal in relation to the bigger picture from underexposure to Nature???s own ???Sunshine Vitamin??? The health consequences of NOT having high Vitamin D levels can be up to measured in BILLIONS of DALY???s vs Millions from even today???s exposure levels.

UVR exposure is a minor contributor to the world???s disease burden, causing an estimated annual loss of 1.6 million DALYs; i.e. 0.1% of the total global disease burden. A markedly larger annual disease burden, 3.3 billion DALYs, might result from reduction in global UVR exposure to very low levels.

http://xr.com/LessD

Melanoma Mortality Rates have remained steady for Women for the past 30 years at a rate of 2/100,000 while Men have risen two-threefold in the same time frame. Women frequent tanning salons at a ratio of 4:1, shouldn???t the rate be reversed?

http://xr.com/30AllAge

In the most recent headline, the media neglected to see past the flash and see the study showed Lifetime routine exposure, outdoor activities, and outdoor jobs actually lowered the risk of melanoma, while use of chemical sunscreens raised the risks.

What stood out in this report was the fact that those with many moles the risk was raised 1,281%, having very fair skin raised the risk 450%, and Red hair raised the risks 253%. These are all characteristics of a Skin Type 1 which would not and should not look for additional sun exposure, indoors or outside.

http://xr.com/hysteria

Humans evolved under the sun. Mother Nature played a cruel joke in that the same UVB that produces vast amounts of Vitamin D in the skin can also burn and/or damage it with overexposure. Sunscreens have been in use for the past 40 years, and not surprisingly, by blocking Natures??? own protection, we may have caused many of the melanomas being seen.

http://xr.com/SSMel

Interestingly, the same sun that may cause melanoma may actually protect against the most serious cases.

A little bit of anything is usually good for us, but an overabundance may cause harm. Moderation is the key. Get regular sun exposure on as much body surface for a short period of time outdoors when you can, between the hours of 10A and 2P, when the sun is above 45??, typically between April and November at a line from Boston to Sacramento (40??N Lat).

If that???s not practical, Indoor tanning salons offer time controlled UV exposure that doesn???t vary with the time of day, season, cloud cover, ozone layer, or many other factors.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on July 17, 2010
at 04:12 PM

Eva: I think you might be confusing the message - it's not like using a tanning bed once immediately gives you sun cancer. The people who use tanning beds tend to do so for aesthetic reasons and likely over-expose themselves because of it, whereas someone using a tanning bed for vitamin D would both use a different kind of bed as well as probably not use it as much.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 19, 2010
at 05:08 PM

This study attempted to control for type of tanning bed. I don't know if they succeeded accurately or not, but the fact remains that they found no sig diff between types of beds used. They also attempted to control for amount of tanning bed use and amounts of burns.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 17, 2010
at 04:47 AM

Part of the reason I am curious is BECAUSE of the things you are saying here. If Vit D is protective and tanning beds increase vit D so well, then why do tanning beds seem to not be protective when sun IS protective? Even when they controlled for type of tanning bed, they found all tanning beds to be not protective. NOt saying I think this is written in stone now, but I will be keeping an eye on this issue. If tanning beds are substantially worse than the sun, I think it's good to understand that.

3
D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

on July 16, 2010
at 02:31 AM

Here's my n=1:

I regularly tanned indoors for years. I used to own a tanning bed...ugh. I am only 39 years old and have already had 2 basal cell carcinomas removed from my back. The scars are gorgeous. The expense of treatment is ridiculous. I am just hoping they dont start showing up on my chest.

Luckily, Basal cell is not deadly like melanoma, but it is disfiguring. You would not want it on your face. The dermatologist told me that basal cell used to not show up in patients until their sixties. Now with increased tanning bed use she sees it very often on young people like me who over exposed their skin to artificial sunlamps.

You can find research to support both sides of the debate, but I think indoor tanning convenience can cause overuse/overexposure, which in turn could possible increase your risk for cancer. Indoor tanning is very relaxing and turned into somewhat of an addiction for me. There are plenty of days when it is too cloudy or too hot to sunbathe outdoors, but you can always find a tanning salon open. Too much a good thing is too much.

IMO: Stay out of the tanning beds and only sunbathe outdoors. When you start to get a burn, go inside. But that's just my n=1 !

3
9d741bcbe702044635f2ce3078043054

(1435)

on July 15, 2010
at 08:20 PM

UV exposure does cause DNA damage that ultimately can cause cancer. Of that fact I have little doubt. The problem is the medical community oversold the risks and totally ignored the benefits of UV (sun) exposure. I am convinced that the benefits of natural Vitamin D production through sun exposure far, far outweigh the cost of slightly increased cancer risk. If a true cost/benefit analysis were ever done, I think it would show that we (the non-Paleo among us) have traded millions of increased deaths from heart disease, various internal cancers, bone breaks, and other debilities, for a reduction of a few thousand skin cancer deaths.

But...tanning beds use artificial UV light sources that do not produce the full spectrum, high blackbody temperature light that comes from the sun. So we don't know if the mix of UV is more, or less, healthy, than sunlight. For me, the safe call is to avoid them, since I know from my job that UV is powerful, nasty stuff. It smashes double bonds, which is why it is such a good disinfectant. I get lots of sun in the summer when I can, and I supplement year round.

My two cents' worth.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 16, 2010
at 02:18 AM

I have no beef with the sun. My question is about tanning beds. Research seems to indicate that regular sun exposure is protective, but tanning beds are the reverse. For those groks living in places without much sun, this is an important issue to understand and it could also be an impt hint about how things work. Vit D sups might help some groks but we do not know all the things that the sun does in the skin. Research suggests vit D is not the only product created by the sun in the skin. We do not know what the other chemicals do in the body.

2
64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on November 05, 2011
at 04:58 PM

I'd love to see a study done on people who have proper vitamin D levels and gut health. I think that would change a lot of things.

A535c4c4c7075f1c7182159c8c9f1619

(0)

on November 05, 2011
at 08:38 PM

This study like All study's to date related to Indoor Tanning is totally biased. They are all funded by people who make money by keeping us out of the sun and tanning beds. The National Cancer Institute admitted on their website this past June that it is " not known " if UV exposure indoors or out contributes to skin cancer.

2
8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on July 15, 2010
at 12:28 PM

Lots of problems with this study. Check out http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Did-Melanoma-Researchers-Reverse-Engineer-Their-Findings-1266085.htm.

It's not surprising to me, however, that tanning bed users would have a higher risk of skin cancer due to the fact that some tanning beds are substantially stronger than the sun, and some tanning bed users go overboard. So it's prudent to do your research first, and find a tanning bed that mimics the sun as much as possible:

"With our carefully designed questionnaire eliciting the use of specific devices that emit differing amounts of UVB and UVA, we observed considerably stronger ORs for melanoma among users of high-speed or highpressure devices than among users of conventional devices."

Also, burning is a big factor. If tanning bed users burn more than non-users (which would make sense), surely they'll have a higher risk of skin cancer:

"Cases were also more likely than controls to report having experienced painful burns from indoor tanning (adjusted OR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.71-3.04), a greater number of indoor tanning-related burns (P trend = 0.01), or painful sunburns at a time when they thought they were protected from the sun by indoor tanning (adjusted OR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.48-2.70)."

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 15, 2010
at 04:32 PM

SOunds like the marketwire article is a bit biased as well. I see no reason why outdoor sun exposure benefits conflict with a premise that tanning beds may be bad. In addition, looks like the study did take data on type of tanning bed, outdoor sun exposure, sunburns, sunscreen use, etc and looked at them as potential confounders. Of course, that doens't mean I trust them blindly either. Most researchers have a bias.

1
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on November 06, 2011
at 05:34 AM

My bet is on all the weird lotions and potions used to accelerate and enhance the effects of tanning beds. I tried my darndest to find the most natural commercial lotion I could use in the tanning bed to keep my skin hydrated, and it still had more chemicals than I was really comfortable with. I think I'll make my own in the future.

Overuse has got to be part of it too, it seemed like there was a macho thing at play where I used to go and people would really push themselves to do as much as they could, and the staff would egg them on. I've used tanning beds to boost my D and fend off SAD, but I've tried to limit my time to what I thought I needed to feel better.

There's also the supposed UV protective role of anti-oxidants. Did they check whether the people who ended up with tanning bed induced melanoma ate an antioxidant rich diet? I saw a lot of Diet Coke and crappy snack food in the hands of people waiting to tan.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 06, 2011
at 05:38 AM

Good points! We know enough to beware, but we don't know it all ...

1
4310630972b25b6ed4fbd0fe7a7201d0

on July 15, 2010
at 02:20 PM

Here's a post from John Durant that talks about that particular study: Media hysteria on tanning beds and melanoma.

But some key points:

"people who tanned indoors had a 74% higher chance of developing melanoma than those who hadn???t."

"red heads are 253% more likely to get melanoma."
"blondes are 117% more likely"

"THE SAME STUDY THAT CONNECTS TANNING BEDS WITH MELANOMA ALSO CONCLUDES THAT HIGHER SUNSCREEN USAGE INCREASES YOUR RISK OF MELANOMA. Medium or High mean lifetime sunscreen usage increases your chances of getting melanoma by about 30%."

And, "chronic outdoor sun exposure" is correlated with malignant melanoma:

"Three measure of sun exposure show that high lifetime sun exposure decreases risk of melanoma (ORs of .85, .95, and .84)."

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 15, 2010
at 04:21 PM

When I took statistics, I was told that if predicted outcome was not statistically significant IN THE DIRECTION PREDICTED, then we were to report that no correlation was found. That is why you are supposed to give your predictions before you even start the data collection and are not allowed to change it later (although some do break that rule). There is a different type of number crunching used when looking for any correlation than when looking for a specific direction and that is also supposed to be decided before the data is collected.

0
361e96d70d6d3b91d63f6ad975e60ab6

(840)

on November 06, 2011
at 04:30 AM

My simplification: relatively high of a concentration of uv in a short amount of time

-5
Medium avatar

on November 06, 2011
at 03:06 AM

Does anyone here think it makes sense to spend time in tanning beds?

If so, please form a subgroup. Keep the rest of us posted. Here, or in the Afterlife.

Keep it up, you'll get there freaking fast.

Is this thread an intentional joke, or is the irony mere serendipity?

Medium avatar

(8239)

on November 06, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Agree, the conversation isn't the problem. :) I just get amazed that these tanning centers exist. Perhaps there are ways to use tanning beds at lower levels of intensity, comparable to ambient outdoor sunlight. I dread the impending melanoma statistics when the long-term damage of high-intensity tanning beds hits...

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 06, 2011
at 03:13 AM

Since in this lifestyle it's considered good to get out into the sun, I don't see that it's so awful to start a conversation about tanning beds. That said, I agree with you that I would not consider getting inside one of them.

1e58ba5c171a122541d8b4873f604327

(229)

on December 08, 2012
at 12:28 AM

This is pretty closed-minded.. . The same media that tells us that whole grains and low fat are good for us tells us that tanning is bad..... is a high fat diet a joke?

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