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Study shows tanning costs $343 million a year in healthcare

Indoor tanning-related skin cancers have been linked to early death and increasing healthcare costs in the United States.

By Amy Wallace
Study shows tanning costs $343 million a year in healthcare
A new study shows tanning devices cost $343 million a year in healthcare costs related to skin cancer treatment in the United States. Photo by damiangretka/Shutterstock

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Researchers from the University of North Carolina have discovered tanning devices cost the United States $343.1 million annually in healthcare costs due to their association with skin cancers.

In 2015, there were 263,600 cases of skin cancer related to indoor tanning that carried $343.1 million in healthcare costs and caused a total economic loss of $127 billion over the lifetime of those affected.

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UV-A radiation damages cells and DNA, while UV-B radiation causes burning, and both cause skin cancer. Indoor tanning devices emit UV radiation and are directly linked to skin cancer along with other skin conditions such as dermatitis, keratitis and porokeratosis.

Even with all the data linking indoor tanning to skin cancer, an estimated 30 million people report using indoor tanning devices at least once a year -- an increase over the last 20 years.

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"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and its incidence is increasing, due in part to the increase in the use of tanning devices," Dr. Hugh Waters of the University of North Carolina and study author, said in a press release. "We know these devices have significant health and financial impacts, and with this study we wanted to establish these impacts clearly to support efforts to reduce their use, especially among younger people."

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Researchers studied three types of skin cancer for the study: cutaneous melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In 2015, there were 9,000 cases of melanoma, 86,600 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and 168,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma that were attributed to indoor tanning.

They found the total costs to treat tanning bed related skin cancers were $343.1 million per year.

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"Our calculations are all conservative, so this is the lower end of the estimate -- the impact could be even higher than this," Waters said. "Tanning devices cause hundreds of thousands of people to suffer a number of different diseases, costing billions of dollars and, most importantly, people's lives. We hope that our results will help in the efforts toward reducing the use of tanning devices."

The study was published in the Journal of Cancer Policy.

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