Research Areas

Spray Tanning Is No Alternative

An OpEd by EHHI President Nancy Alderman, published in the New Haven Register

The studies connecting tanning bed use to early onset melanomas are numerous and convincing. There is so much credible science about the dangers of tanning bed use that the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Cancer Society and the Academy of Dermatology have all asked that minors be banned from using tanning beds.

Leffell says: "Every month, I see skin cancer patients in their 20s, virtually all of whom have used tanning parlors and but for that exposure would likely not have developed the malignancy at such a young age."

Until recently it was thought that if people were educated about the dangers of tanning beds, they would choose spray tanning, which many believed was a safer alternative to getting a tanned look.

The chemical that is used in spray tanning, DHA (dihydroxyacetone), is a color additive that darkens the skin by reacting with amino acids on the skin surface. It has never been approved for spray tanning, where it can be inhaled. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for external application only.

Dr. Rey Panettieri, a toxicologist and lung specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that DHA compounds in some cells could promote the development of cancers or malignancies.

With both tanning beds and spray tanning causing cancer, how should this industry be regulated?

If tanning beds cause cancer, but spray tanning is safe, the state could ban minors from using tanning beds and they could opt for spray tanning. But now we learn that both are carcinogenic.

There is no safe way to use tobacco and so the state regulates its use by minors. There now seems to be no safe way to use tanning salons; so, should the state protect minors from their use?

A recent study by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City found that despite being faced with the serious health warnings about tanning bed use, teenagers justified their tanning bed habits.

The rise in skin cancers is staggering, and like lung cancer from smoking, the rest of us are carrying those costs. Both lung cancer and skin cancers are very expensive to treat.

For instance, a stage four melanoma will cost up to $170,000 and if newer drugs are indicated as additional medicines, the total cost of treatment could reach $290,000.

It is time for states to address this issue, because if the tanning industry is left without meaningful regulations, there will be higher costs to the public, higher incidence of skin cancers, and we will all be bearing the emotional and financial costs of higher cancer rates.