Tanning beds have long been associated with skin cancer, and now researchers are quantifying just what that costs the US financially. Reporting in the Journal of Cancer Policy, they calculate that in 2015, the direct medical care for skin cancers resulting from tanning bed exposure totals $343.1 million. What's more, they figure that early deaths and loss of productivity in these cases add up to a $127.3 billion loss over the lifetime of individuals currently diagnosed. But those are just dollar signs: the human toll is large, too, with more than 263,000 cases of skin cancer attributed to tanning beds in 2015 alone. The researchers call tanning beds a "significant contributor to illness and premature mortality in the US." Reuters notes that some 30 million Americans use tanning beds every year.
Tanning beds emit UV-A rays, which damage DNA, and UV-B rays, which can burn one's skin and also raise the risk of skin cancer. (The research did not calculate the medical cost of burns.) Previous research has found that indoor tanning bed exposure in people younger than 35 nearly doubles their risk of melanoma, reports STAT News, and Americans must now be 18 or older to use them in several states. "Women younger than 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors," says a University of Alabama researcher who wasn't involved in the study. "Even one indoor tanning session can increase users' risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%." (Australia has outright banned tanning beds.)