If the U.S. were to impose a ban on the use of tanning beds by adolescents under 17, thousands of potentially deadly skin cancers could be prevented and millions of dollars in healthcare costs saved, according to a recent review published in the journal CANCER.
Indoor tanning has been linked to an increased risk of all types of skin cancer – including melanoma, which is potentially fatal if not detected early – with the highest risk in those who start using tanning beds at a young age. In fact, melanoma has become one of the most common cancers among young adults, especially women.
But despite this increased knowledge, indoor tanning remains a common practice among young Americans. Research shows that 17% of U.S. teens have used tanning beds, as have 59% of college students. One-third of those who regularly tan indoors start doing so before age 18.
A handful of countries, including the U.K., France, Germany and Spain, have implemented policies to ban tanning beds for those under 18, while the U.S. and Canada have not. Such bans, say this study’s Canadian authors, have the potential to save lives and treatment-related costs – although they do come with their own price tags related to policy implementation and enforcement, as well as lost revenue to the tanning industry.
To consider both the benefits and costs of a ban, investigators modeled the lifespans of the 17.1 million Americans who are now between the ages of 14 and 17. The team’s simulations compared the outcomes, both financially and in terms of health consequences, of instituting a ban versus not doing so.
Their simulations showed that a ban would prevent more than 15,000 melanoma cases and produce an economic savings of more than $205 million over their lifetimes.