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Report: Tanning Devices Cost U.S. Health Care $343 Million a Year

Despite cancer risk, indoor tanning is on the rise

Tanning devices cost the United States $343.1 million a year in medical costs because of the skin cancers with which their use is associated, according to a study from the University of North Carolina. The investigators established the prevalence of indoor tanning-related skin cancers in the U.S. and calculated the costs of these diseases. Their findings were published in the Journal of Cancer Policy.

The researchers estimated that, in 2015, a total of 263,600 cases of skin cancer could be attributed to indoor tanning. These cases cost $343.1 million in medical costs during that year, and caused a total economic loss of $127 billion over the lifetime of the people affected.

According to the authors, studies have clearly shown that tanning devices cause skin cancer. The devices emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation; UV-A damages cells and DNA, causing skin cancer, and UV-B causes burning and contributes to skin cancer. In addition, several other diseases have been linked to indoor tanning, including dermatitis, keratitis, and porokeratosis. Nevertheless, the proportion of people in the U.S. who use indoor tanning devices has risen over the last 20 years; an estimated 30 million people now use the devices at least once a year in the approximately 25,000 tanning salons across the country.

“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,” said lead investigator Dr. Hugh Waters. “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.”

The researchers focused on three types of skin cancer: cutaneous melanoma, basal-cell carcinoma, and squamous-cell carcinoma. They identified the total number of cases in the U.S. in 2015 and estimated how many of these cases were likely due to the use of tanning devices by using data on the prevalence of the use of tanning devices and previously published estimates of relative risk. They found 9,000 cases of melanoma, 86,600 cases of squamous-cell carcinoma, and 168,000 cases of basal-cell carcinoma that could be attributed to the use of tanning devices.

The researchers then estimated the health care cost of these cases, based on the average annual cost of treating patients with each of the diseases. This resulted in an estimated medical cost of $343.1 million a year. By determining the years of potential life lost due to the diseases and the average lost earnings per person, the researchers also determined the cost of working time missed due to the conditions. These productivity losses amounted to $127 billion over the lifetime of the people who had the conditions attributable to tanning devices in 2015.

“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.”

Source: Medical Xpress; February 28, 2017.

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