Indoor tanning causes almost half a million cases of skin cancer every year in the United States alone, but that fact in and of itself is doing little to curb the prevalence and appeal of tanning beds in health clubs, according to new research published in the JAMA Dermatology Journal.
In "A Comparison of Tanning Habits Among Gym Tanners and Other Tanners," published July 18, researchers assessed nationally representative survey data of 636 Americans who had tanned indoors at least once to better understand the motivating factors surrounding indoor tanning, particularly in the health club space.
Approximately 25 percent of those surveyed tanned at a health club, according to the research. That group also tanned at their health club of choice 67 percent more frequently than those who used tanning beds outside of health clubs.
A correlation between exercise and tanning also emerged in the research. Those who tanned at health clubs were more physically active than those who did not, exercising 3.85 days per week versus 2.73 days per week, respectively.
The research notes that Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness, two of the largest health club chains in the United States with a combined membership of 13 million, offer indoor tanning beds.
“These facilities are offering their customers one very healthy behavior and one very unhealthy behavior under the same roof,” lead study author, Sherry Pagoto, a professor of allied health sciences at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, told Consumer Reports. “No one would suggest putting a cigarette machine in the gym, and for the same reason, they shouldn’t have tanning beds either. ... Gyms are providing an easy tanning opportunity at a low cost by combining tanning packages with gym memberships. ... People who work out a lot and people who tan a lot may have something in common. They both care about how they look and put a lot of energy into improving their appearance.”
Indoor tanning annually contributes to more than 400,000 U.S. cases of skin cancer, such as malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Additionally, more than 3,200 people are hospitalized each year due to tanning-related injuries, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In August 2017, the Indoor Tanning Association announced it was ceasing operations and dissolving. The association cited the tanning industry's tax-influenced downsizing as a reason for its dissolution, as well as emerging laws that limit children and teen's access to tanning services.