TANNING IN ALASKA

ULTRAVIOLET EXPOSURE RELATED DEATHS*


  1. 45 year old female, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 13, 1989 psoriasis patient on psoralen, one tan session caused third degree burns and blisters over 70% of her body, customer died eleven days later from overwhelming sepsis.
    (Indiana Department of Health incident report, and Indianapolis Star articles May 28, 1989 pg. C-6, June 3, 1989 page B-8)
  2. 90 year old male, Miami, Florida, February 16, 1990 Physically active psoriasis patient. This was the third of three tanning sessions, timer ran over. Patient burned over 90% of body. Death was due to sepsis.
    (Miami Herald March 16, 1990, article by Geoffrey Tomb)
  3. 20 year old female, September 1990 JAMA, ingested multiple doses of canthaxanthin (tan enhancer-[Orobronze, BronzGlo.]), no other medications, died of aplastic anemia following ultraviolet exposure.
    (Journal of the American Medical Association, September 5, 1990)
  4. female, 22, Bremen, Germany, March 15, 1985 - 8-methoxypsoralen, one tan session caused whole body burns with blisters. Death due to heart and kidney failure occurred 13 days later.
    (Translation from German by G. Kantor, published in Illustrated News, April 6, 1985)
  5. 54 year old female, Wurzburg, Germany, March 1999, patient treated with a combination of psoralen and UV-A, exposed for 30 minutes in a single session. 85% of skin surface burned with blisters and she died of septicemia 16 days after admission to hospital. (Archives of Dermatology, Vol. 37, No. 3, March 2001. Author: Matthias Goebeler, MD, et al.)

Note that these last examples are rare, but regulation of the tanning industry began in response to such misuse of ultraviolet radiation exposure at the time.

More recently, there is a documented death (September 13, 2007, Herald Sun) that has been controversial in Australia, of a 26 year old Asian woman who died of melanoma after ten exposures in a tanning salon. She also had exposure to sunshine so the salon operators are fighting claims that it was caused by tanning beds. However, citizen concerns resulted in closure of tanning bed salons in Australia. And if salon owners try to defer responsibility by attributing her death to her sun exposures on the beach they are by de factor claiming that sun exposure causes melanoma, and in turn since tanning lamps are promoted as mimicking sunlight tanning beds must also have that capability. This highlights one of the falasies that beds provide a "controlled" exposure. If a person is exposed to both indoor and outdoor ultraviolet radiation without accurately measuring the actual combined exposures from both then no amount of precise measurement of the indoor source can really be a "controlled" exposure.

It should be noted that not all cases of injury are reported, particularly in states without indoor tanning regulations. These examples represent the extreme extent of injury possible when indoor tanning is conducted without adequate precautions.

It should also be noted that the incidence of reported tanning related deaths indicates a very low rate for this serious outcome. Indoor tanning is a choice, not an essential activity, so that choice must be an informed one. It is also voluntary exposure in addition to exposure to solar and occupational sources which an individual receives doing ordinary daily activities. Given the number of people who tan per year which is claimed to be about 30,000,000 (SmartTan Network, 2002) the ratio of deaths per 100,000 people is very small. However, the World Health Organization has reported that in the year 2,000 up to 71,000 deaths occurred due to excessive exposure to UV. And if tanning lamps produce the same effects as the sun as tanning boosters claim one must suspect some of those can be attributed to indoor tanning, or a combination of indoor and outdoor exposures. These numbers represent the direct result of excessive ultraviolet radiation exposure, and do not take into account the number of deaths and/or health admissions for treatment of skin cancer. There are approximately 2,000,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed per year, with 132,000 of those being melignant melanoma (World Health Organization). The WHO states that the incidence of melanoma in the U.S. has doubled since 1975. According to the American Cancer Society, and Centers for Disease Control it is estimated that 10,850 deaths will occur due to excessive exposure to UV radiation. There is no conclusive information on what proportion of those are due to indoor tanning. However, death is not the only significant outcome. Other kinds of injury and/or disease are far more common. These are listed elsewhere on this web site.

Last reviewed/updated by webmaster: November 21, 2011..

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