Tan at Your Own Risk: The Shocking Surge in Skin Cancer Amongst Young Women

Skin cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially among younger individuals. Over the years, researchers have observed a sharp increase in melanoma cases, particularly in people under 40 years old. For instance, since the 1970s, melanoma rates have escalated by an alarming eightfold in young women and fourfold in young men. It isn’t a coincidence that this increase is occurring alongside the popularity of indoor tanning beds. Recent studies have confirmed the connection between tanning beds and skin cancer, with regular users having a 74% increased risk of developing melanoma.

The Dangers of Tanning Beds

Despite being well-aware of the dangers, many young women continue to use tanning beds. Dr. Jerry Brewer, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic, believes that active interventions are necessary to address this issue. He stresses the need for ongoing education on the carcinogenic effects of indoor tanning to minimize the risk of skin cancer.

Tanning beds emit artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can lead to DNA damage in skin cells. This damage accumulates over time, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Although sun exposure also carries similar risks, tanning beds are considered much more hazardous due to the higher intensity of UV radiation they produce.

Moreover, several types of skin cancer are associated with tanning bed use, including:

  1. Melanoma: The deadliest form of skin cancer, it develops in the melanocytes—the cells responsible for producing melanin that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes.

  2. Basal cell carcinoma: A slow-growing and curable type of cancer that forms in the basal cells, which are found in the skin’s lower layers.

  3. Squamous cell carcinoma: A more aggressive cancer, it starts in the flat, thin cells that make up the skin’s outer layer.

Preventative Measures and Alternatives

Instead of relying on tanning beds, individuals should consider safer alternatives for achieving a sun-kissed look without jeopardizing their health. Some of these alternatives include:

  1. Sunless tanning lotions: These lotions contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a sugar that reacts with the dead skin cells on the surface, temporarily darkening the skin.

  2. Bronzers: Available in powders, creams, and lotions, they are designed to create a natural-looking tan, which can be easily removed with soap and water.

  3. Spray tans: Professional spray tanning services use high-quality, organic ingredients to provide an even and realistic tan. These services can be found at most spas and salons.

Additionally, people should take precautionary steps to minimize the risks associated with sun exposure. These measures include:

  1. Wearing sunscreen: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.

  2. Seeking shade: Stay in shaded areas or use a sun umbrella when outdoors, particularly from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

  3. Wearing protective clothing: Opt for long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats to shield the skin from harmful UV radiation.

  4. Sunglasses: Wear sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection to safeguard the eyes and the delicate skin around them.

  5. Regular skin checkups: Periodically examine the skin for any changes, such as new moles or growths, and consult a dermatologist immediately for a professional assessment.

Educating the Public

It’s crucial to address the misconceptions surrounding the safety of indoor tanning beds. Young people, especially women, should be informed about the associated risks. Schools and community organizations can play a significant role in promoting awareness through educational programs and workshops. Furthermore, the media can help to dispel myths and spread accurate information by featuring expert opinions, real-life stories, and supporting campaigns promoting sun-safe behaviors.


The dramatic increase in skin cancer cases, particularly among young women, is a wakeup call for society. By acknowledging the dangers of indoor tanning and implementing preventive measures, individuals can take control of their skin health and significantly reduce the risk of developing life-threatening conditions. It’s essential for individuals, and especially young women, to take these risks seriously and seek safer alternatives to achieve a bronzed appearance while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.