From tanning bed to hospital bed: sends 3,000 to E.R.

tanning bed

Tanning booths are like a Futurama suicide booth that’s stuck in the ‘slow and horrible’ mode of death. But in addition to the increased risk of skin cancer that tanning beds are infamous for, more immediate adverse effects are also possible, such as skin burns, eye, injuries, fainting, and looking like an Oompa Loompa (“Sun tanning's fine when it's once in a while/It gives you vitamin D and brightens your smile/But it's repulsive, revolting, and wrong/ Tanning and tanning all day long.”)

A new study in Monday’s JAMA Internal Medicine estimates that those types of non-fatal injury sent 3,234 people to the hospital a year between 2003 and 2012. Most of the patients – more than 80% of whom were white and about 80% female – suffered skin burns at a public tanning salon as opposed to a home device. Additionally, 10% lost consciousness, and 6% experie`nced burns, inflamed corneas, foreign objects, and other eye injuries.

“It’s important for people to understand both the long-term and the short-term risks of indoor tanning,” health economist in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control's Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch at the CDC and study co-author Gery P. Guy, Jr. told CBS News and Reuters. “Some of these more immediate injuries are putting someone at more risk for the longer term problems. For example, burns increase the risk of skin cancer later in life, while eye injuries from intense UV exposure may lead to cataracts and eye melanoma. People trying to get tan to look good need to understand that they might get a burn rather than a tan, and that tanned skin is also damaged skin.”

The researchers pointed out that many women aged 18-24 visit tanning salons before social events or going on trips in order to achieve a “healthy glow;” also known as Chernobyl chic (not really). “Unfortunately, it has taken years for the cultural mystique of the ‘healthy tan’ to be replaced by an informed understanding of the risks of tanning, both indoor and outdoor, including premature skin aging, eye damage, and melanoma and other skin cancers,” Dr. Joseph Ross of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut wrote in an editor’s note. The FDA ruled last year that indoor tanning sets bear a warning label in an effort to reduce the 170,000 yearly skin cancer cases that tanning booths cause each year, but “more should be done to limit the use of indoor tanning among young adults and adolescents,” Ross said.

Professor of medicine and director of dermatologic research Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center Dr. Adam Friedman told CBS News that “Now we can say there are acute issues too. I think the idea that someone will have to go the hospital or the emergency room can dissuade people. This is arming the medical community with more power to push people away.” Guy was sententious. “One visit to the emergency room due to indoor tanning is one visit too much,” he said. “Tanned skin is damaged skin.”