12 Outrageous Tanning Myths That Should Be Burned Immediately

    Don't fall for the vast "base tan" conspiracy.

    Tanning is big business. There are 14,000 indoor tanning outfits in the United States, and about 10% of Americans visit one every year. (One study of big cities found that indoor tanning salons outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's.) The annual economic impact of the tanning industry is an estimated $5 billion.

    Unsurprisingly, the tanning industry produces a whole lot of marketing — through websites, social media, emails, and even text messages. And it's gotten in hot water with the federal government for making false and deceptive claims.

    "The tanning salons promote these myths about the safety of tanning," Carolyn Heckman of Fox Chase Cancer Center told BuzzFeed News. "They use a lot of strategies similar to the tobacco industry, in terms of trying to attract young people and get them hooked."

    Here are the biggest myths to watch out for.

    1. MYTH: A base tan is "nature's sunscreen."

    2. MYTH: Tanning doesn't cause the deadly kind of skin cancer.

    3. MYTH: Tanning is safe for kids and teens.


    The earlier you start tanning, the higher your lifetime risk of skin cancer.

    Donna Regen, a retired copy editor from Allen, Texas, knows these stats all too well. Her daughter, Jaime, started going to the tanning salon around age 14. When Donna found out, she went into the salon with Jaime to ask if it was safe for someone so young. "I was told, 'Oh, absolutely, because of her fair skin she needs to go to tanning beds to get a base tan'," Regen told BuzzFeed News.

    Jaime kept going tanning, usually every day. When she was 20, she was diagnosed with melanoma, and when she was 29, it killed her.

    "We don't have any family history of it," said Regen, who is now an anti-tanning activist. The doctors told her that the tanning beds had likely spurred the cancer.

    4. MYTH: Most skin cancers are no big deal.

    5. MYTH: Only UVB rays are bad for you, and UVA rays are no biggie.

    6. MYTH: You don't have to worry if you use newer models of tanning beds.

    7. MYTH: If you don't burn you won't be at risk of cancer.

    8. MYTH: Tanning is a fantastic source of vitamin D.

    9. MYTH: Tanning decreases your risk of cancer because of vitamin D.

    10. MYTH: Tanning will help you lose weight.

    11. MYTH: Sunscreen is toxic.

    12. MYTH: Tanning doesn't accelerate wrinkles.

    "If I could offer you only one tip for the future..."

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    The Dollars for Docs database does not contain information about financial relationships between doctors and consumer companies such as sunscreen manufacturers, as was implied in an earlier version of this post.