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A few days ago, I helped my daughter move into her freshman dorm room at college. Part of my responsibility as her mom is preparing her for the newfound freedom that comes with starting this new chapter in her life, and urging her to be responsible. So we had “the conversation.” Unlike those we had as she entered middle and high school, this one was about protecting herself from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Fortunately, my daughter attends a college that doesn’t allow tanning beds on campus. Other students aren’t as fortunate — almost half of U.S. colleges have tanning beds available in school facilities, and 14 percent let students pay for tanning beds with campus cash cards.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has labeled indoor tanning devices to be “carcinogenic to humans.” So why do so many college campuses have them?


About a year ago, I was treated for stage 1 and in-situ melanomas. My experience with this diagnosis and treatment is part of what led me to join the staff of the Melanoma Research Foundation to help raise awareness of the dangers of this cancer. As a melanoma survivor, and a mother, I’m appalled that some institutions of higher learning allow tanning beds on campus and promote their accessibility. We might as well be handing our young adults cartons of cigarettes.

Much like tobacco use and alcohol abuse, melanoma is a public health issue. Nearly 90,000 Americans are diagnosed with this largely preventable type of skin cancer each year, and close to 10,000 die from it. Melanoma is the second most common type of skin cancer in women ages 15-29. There is a clear link between melanoma and exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or from tanning beds. Data show that visiting a tanning bed even once before the age of 30 can increase an individual’s chance of developing melanoma by 75 percent.


With all we know about the dangers of tanning, why haven’t colleges gone indoor tanning-free?

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, which my organization works with, educates colleges on the dangers of tanning and what they can do to protect students. Schools are starting to do the right thing.

Take East Tennessee State University. Last year, it answered the surgeon general’s 2014 call to action to prevent skin cancer by promoting a skin smart education campaign on campus, prohibiting indoor tanning services in university buildings, and preventing the use of campus debit cards for indoor tanning services in off-campus entities. For these efforts, it was the first higher education institution in the nation to be designated an Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campus by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. I applaud the council’s work on college campuses and encourage all colleges and universities to become Indoor Tan-Free Skin Smart Campuses.

If your child’s campus is one of the many that have tanning beds in school facilities, let administrators know this is unacceptable — especially if the institution is affiliated with a medical school or receives funding for cancer research. When a school is working to find a cure for cancer, yet giving students easy access to tanning beds, is it actually committed to eradicating cancer? Real commitment includes banning tanning beds from the campus.

Allowing tanning beds on campuses is a disservice to young adults entering a new stage in their lives, one in which societal pressures to be beautiful and cool often reach a peak. As parents, loved ones, professors, and education professionals, we owe it to our kids and students to do what we can to protect them from preventable diseases like melanoma.

So when you drop your son or daughter at college and you have the talk about making the right decisions, make sure you remind them they are beautiful in the skin they’re in and they don’t need to tan. It could save their life.

Beth Allgaier is the director of corporate relations for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

  • No one seems to mention the well-documented beneficial effects of sunbeds (tanning beds). Here are a few:
    A 20-year study demonstrated that both sun exposure and sunbed exposure reduced the risk of death; women who used sunbeds were 23% less likely to die of all causes than women who did not use them.
    • Sunbed use is associated with increased vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is essential to human health.
    • Sunbed use is associated to lower breast-cancer risk.
    • Sunbed use is associated with stronger bones.
    • Sunbed use can cure psoriasis and eczema and sunbeds are often recommended by dermatologists.
    • Sunbed use more than three times yearly is associated with a 40-50% reduced risk of endometrial cancer.
    • Sunbed use is associated with a reduced risk of clots.
    •Sunbeds can also help to build a protective tan, which prevents sun damage during sunny vacations.
    To learn more, and to read all of the scientific documentation regarding sunbeds and sun exposure, visit the Sunlight Institute.

    • “Sunbed use can cure psoriasis and eczema…”

      That is all I need to read to know that the rest of that post likely is hokum.

      There may come a time when psoriasis and eczema may be cured, but that time has not yet arrived. And you can be darn sure that the use of sunbeds does not cure either condition. Sunbeds may afford some measure of temporary control of psoriasis and eczema, but they do not cure either condition.

    • Marc thank you. What you said is what I was trying to say before someone called Denis started attacking me on here and then made it out that I was the problem. I gave up trying to argue with them in the end as they are clearly ignorant.
      I myself use sunbeds for most of these benefits.
      I’ve also noticed that the only people who end up developing skin cancer are the ones who abuse the sunbeds – use them too much

  • Denis I know what this article is about. It’s about a lady who overused sunbeds and got skin cancer and when she found out that colleges allow them on campuses she got upset and wrote this article.
    My point is: if students get properly educated on how to use the sunbeds and there’s someone there to control how much the sunbeds are being used by each individual = limiting how much they are used by individuals, the sunbeds shouldn’t be a problem.
    I’ve read many articles just like this one and the victims are always the ones who use sunbeds too much e.g. daily or 3-4 times per week for many years. If you use sunbeds in moderation e.g. 1-2 times per week then you should be fine as there are no reports of people who use sunbeds once or twice a week that they develop skin cancer or at least I haven’t been able to find any

    • Since you haven’t been able to find any reports of people usibg sunbeds once or twice a week that develop skin cancer, allow me to offer the following:

      From the article: “Compared with tanning bed use at ages 25 to 35 years, we found a significantly higher risk of BCC for use during high school/college (multivariable-adjusted HR for use more than six times per year compared with no use was 1.73 during high school/college v 1.28 at ages 25 to 35 years; P for heterogeneity < .001)."
      Note the frequency-more than six times PER YEAR compared to the 1-2 times/week you postulated as being safe.

      There are many other articles out there that support the conclusion that even infrequent tanning bed use significantly increases one's risk for skin cancer, particularly during high school or (as this article addresses) during college. I suggest using Google Scholar to weed out the chaff if you wish to explore this further.

    • No proof there. That is an non-peer-reviewed article over 8 years old citing one oncologist stating that adequate vitamin D levels are important. I do not disagree. My point is that one can achieve adequate vitamin D levels via supplementation without the harmful effects of UV light. Tanning beds primarily emit UVA (vs. UVB), and UVA is very inefficient in stimulating endogenous production of vitamin D, even apart from its damaging effects on one’s skin.

      Furthermore, the author personally is wary of supplements because of a perceived controversy about what a safe level of vitamin D is. That’s not really true, at least not true in 2017 (vs. when the article you cited was written, 2009). There may be some diminishing controversy about what the safe maximum levels of vitamin D may be, but there is no controversy that levels in the 30-40 ng/ml range are safe, and there is some evidence that levels in the 20-30 ng/ml range may be even better. See for an article out of Denmark which correlates (though doesn’t prove) a connection between vitamin D levels and overall risk of mortality.

      Bottom line: Commercial public tanning beds cause demonstrable harm to the skin, and are not very effective in causing vitamin D production, a vitamin which is easily available to the general public and the level of which is easily determined via a simple blood test. There is no good reason to subject ourselves to the harmful effects of commercial public tanning beds.
      My original reply to your first comment stands.

  • Denis
    1) I didn’t attack you personally but it was quite an uneducated comment
    2) Sun rays during day time have been proven scientifically to be just as if not more harmful than sunbeds
    3) Not everyone is able to get hold of supplement form vitamin D and supplements don’t always work for everyone

    • (1) “Denis you are talking like an ignorant fool.” – Ad hominem attack.
      (2) Cite proof (from a reliable source) of this. That would be news to me, as well as to other researchers.
      (3) See #2.

  • So basically this article is all about one very insecure lady moaning about tanning bed. Guess what!? Tanning outdoors is just as dangerous if not more so. At least the indoor tanning is controlled.
    I think that instead of banning the tanning beds, people should be taught how to use them properly such as how long to leave in between tanning sessions, what to use while and after tanning, etc. Then there wouldn’t be as many people going on tanning beds TWICE a DAY and then moaning that they’ve developed skin cancer

    • “I think that instead of banning the tanning beds, people should be taught how to use them properly…”
      That makes as much sense as trying to teach people how to use cigarettes properly.
      They are both carcinogenic. The proper way to use either is to not use them at all.

    • Denis you are talking like an ignorant fool. Maybe we should avoid going outside during the day too because the sun is shining and the sunrays which are UV rays are cancerogenic too??? We shall all act like fearful vampires and die from lack of vitamin D

    • Simona:
      (1) Ad hominem attacks don’t work on me. They belittle those who try to use them, not the intended targets.
      (2) We go outside for reasons (good reasons) other than trying to tan our skin, unlike the use of tanning beds.
      (3) Vitamin D is easily and cheaply available in supplement form, should a person have deficient or insufficient levels of the vitamin.

    • Plus doctors even advice to use sunbeds for people with certain skin conditions such as psoriasis or acne as well as to people with vitamin D deficiency or at least they do so in Oxford, UK

    • I don’t deny that artificial sources of UV light are used for therapeutic purposes, but this article is not about therapeutic uses of UV light, it’s about the use of tanning beds on college campuses for non-prescribed purposes.

  • 2 eaches own. It should be up 2 an individual not an authority figure taking more rights and putting their noses in our business. Everything in moderation. It helps me with seasonal depression and it helps with my MS and Fibro. My skin looks great and healthy although I’m sick inside. We already had a politician try 2 ruin school lunches while over indulging herself. If we pick 1 topic like tanning then let’s talk about over eating or WHAT we eat and tell us what were allowed to do. I understand your point but 1 way is not the right way for everyone. I pray u have a great day. Not trying to argue I just think there are different ways to look at it. M

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