Tanning Beds Send Thousands to ER Each Year

A woman lays on a tanning bed.
(Image credit: dotshock/Shutterstock.com)

People who use tanning beds sometimes end up in the emergency room because of skin burns, eye injuries or fainting, according to a new study.

Although the most-talked-about risk of indoor tanning is the possibility of getting skin cancer from the intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation, tanning also has more immediate effects on health, and sends thousands of Americans to the emergency room every year, the researchers found.

In the study, the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data on injuries related to indoor tanning from 2003 to 2012. They found that about 3,200 indoor-tanning-related injuries, on average, were treated each year in U.S. hospitals.

The researchers also found that the number of yearly injuries decreased during the study period, from about 6,500 in 2003 to about 2,000 in 2012. [5 Surprising Things About Sunscreen]

The majority of people who were treated for injuries were young, white women. About one-third of all the people who experienced indoor-tanning-related injuries were ages 18 to 24, and about a quarter were ages 25 to 34. About 80 percent of the injured people were treated for skin burns. About 10 percent were taken to the hospital because they had passed out, and nearly 6 percent had suffered eye injuries.

Most patients were treated in the emergency room and didn't need to be admitted to the hospital, the researchers said. Nevertheless, a skin burn that is severe enough that it requires medical help clearly shows that a person has been overexposed to UV radiation, the researchers wrote in the study, which was published today (Dec. 15) in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

In a previous study, researchers found that people who used indoor tanning beds were 60 percent more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma — the most common type of skin cancer — before age 50 than people who had never used indoor tanning beds.

Indoor tanning users were also about 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the least common but deadliest type of skin cancer, compared with people who had never tanned indoors.

Email Bahar Gholipour. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.