Combined exposure to the sun and to tanning beds doubles the risk of Skin Cancer


New Study: Combined exposure to the sun and to tanning beds doubles the risk of skin cancer

In recent years, warnings against skin tanning using tanning beds have increased, and in 2014, the Ministry of Health determined that using these beds undoubtedly causes cancer.

Now that winter season has arrived, and despite the warning, many return to the tanning salons due to the fewer sunlight hours per day.

A new study published lately and presented by the Israel Cancer Association’s Information Center supports this concern: In the study, published in October 2019 in JAMA Dermatology magazine, researchers from universities in Norway, England and Australia examined the connection between using tanning beds and the second most prevalent type of skin cancer – Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC).   

For the purpose of the study, the researchers monitored 159,419 healthy Norwegian women with an age average of 49.9, who were recruited for the study in 1991 for a period of about 16.5 years.

As part of the study, the women filled out questionnaires every 5-7 years, in which they were asked about the manner of using the tanning beds (frequency, duration and start of usage age), about vacations in sunny destinations and physical characteristics (eye and skin color, tendency for freckles and sunburns), education level, etc.

During the follow up, 597 SCC type skin cancer cases were detected with an average diagnosis age of 66.4. Based on this data, the researchers created a model for predicting the development of skin cancer, and proposed five variables for exposure to tanning beds:

  • Ever used (yes/no)

  • Current use (yes/no)

  • Duration of use (never, 1-10 years or over 10 years)

  • Age at start to use

  • Accumulated number of total usages (no use: 0, slight use: 1-38 times, moderate use: 39-239 times, and frequent use: 240 times and more)


The data analysis yielded the following conclusions:

  • The risk of SCC type skin cancer among women who have used tanning beds at some point, versus women who had never used them was significantly higher – 43%.

  • Current use versus past use involved a 27% risk increase.

  • The risk of women who have made frequent use (over 240 times) of tanning beds was 83% higher compared to women who had never used them. The duration of tanning bed use had a similar effect on the risk of SCC type skin cancer: compared to no use, the use of up to 10 years involved a risk increase of 41%, and the use of over 10 years involved a risk increase of 43%.

  • The risk in women who began using tanning beds under the age of 30 was higher by 51% compared to women who had never used them, and 36% higher than women who began using them after the age of 30.


  • The risk of developing SCC type skin cancer was significantly higher – by 2.4 – as a result of accumulated exposure both to the sun and to tanning beds.


To sum up, the research findings display a usage-based connection between using tanning beds and the risk of developing SCC type skin cancer. The researchers note that the risk of accumulated exposure to tanning beds is not influenced by the duration of use (in years) or the starting age of using them.

According to Dana frost, the Israel Cancer Association's Health Promotion Specialist: “This is further evidence which proves that using tanning beds and tanning booths is dangerous, as well as uncontrolled exposure to sunlight. Overexposure to UV rays emitted from tanning beds may cause eye or eyesight damage, increase skin pigmentation and pre-cancerous lesions, and the actual risk of developing skin cancer and melanoma.”