SOURCES: Gery Guy Jr., Ph.D, MPH, health economist, division of cancer prevention and control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Ashani Weeraratna, Ph.D., associate professor, tumor metastasis and micro-environment program, Melanoma Research Center, Wistar Institute, Philadelphia; July 1, 2015, JAMA Dermatology, online
WEDNESDAY, July 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Heeding warnings about increased cancer risks, a growing number of American adults are saying no to indoor tanning, a new government analysis suggests.
The percentage of adults who frequented indoor tanning salons dropped from 5.5 percent in 2010 to slightly over 4 percent in 2013, according to results of the National Health Interview Survey, a poll of more than 59,000 adults.
"Roughly 2 million fewer adults are engaging in indoor tanning, which is definitely encouraging, given the associated health risks," noted study author Gery Guy Jr., a health economist with the division of cancer prevention and control at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The bad news is that even with this reduction, there's still about 10 million adults who continue to indoor tan, which clearly indicates that more efforts are needed to get the message across that indoor tanning is not safe," Guy added.
The findings are outlined in a research letter published online July 1 in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
The declines dovetail with worldwide efforts to draw attention to the risks of indoor tanning. People who use indoor tanning are about 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma -- the deadliest type of skin cancer -- than those who don't, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Pollsters defined indoor tanning as the use of a sunlamp, sunbed or tanning booth.
Though an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men visited indoor tanning salons in 2013, those figures reflected broad downward trends since 2010.
During that period, indoor tanning dropped from just over 11 percent to more than 8 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds, the group most likely to visit a tanning salon.
Among women, indoor tanning dipped from 8.6 percent to 6.5 percent over that period. Among men, it went from slightly over 2 percent to 1.7 percent.
Of women who did indoor tan, the poll found a consistent decline in how often they did so.
For example, indoor tanning frequency dropped by 45 percent among female college graduates, and by 28 percent among women aged 50 and up, the oldest group polled.
Among men, however, pollsters saw a 177 percent increase in tanning frequency by 40- to 49-year-olds, and a 71 percent uptick among those aged 50 and older. Among those men who had survived a bout of cancer, indoor tanning fell by 45 percent.
The CDC team suggested that a number of variables may be driving the numbers downward.
"I think it's several things," Guy said. "Greater awareness that the World Health Organization has categorized indoor tanning devices as carcinogenic, and that they increase the risk for skin cancer specifically. Also, although new age restriction laws passed that prevent minors from indoor tanning may not impact adults directly, they may increase general public awareness. And in 2010 there was a 10 percent federal tax levied on indoor tanning across the nation. That also probably helps."
However, the researchers noted that their study does not determine that these factors caused indoor tanning rates to drop.
Ashani Weeraratna, an associate professor in the tumor metastasis and micro-environment program at the Melanoma Research Center with the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, described the trend as "a huge boost to those of us who work in melanoma research, because that tells us that our message is starting to get through."
"This is a huge number of people who are not indoor tanning anymore," she noted. "And that is very encouraging news. Because overall what we're trying to accomplish for indoor tanning is very much what we tried to accomplish with smoking. We want to get the word out about how dangerous it is for you."
There's more on indoor tanning and skin cancer risk at the Skin Cancer Foundation.