Indoor tanning, melanoma on the rise

A tanning bed sits available for residents to use at FloCo Fusion Apartments on Monday, June 15. Many luxury apartments near the U offer tanning as a free amenity for their residents despite CDC studies that report an increase in Melanoma cases in recent years.

Juliet Farmer

A tanning bed sits available for residents to use at FloCo Fusion Apartments on Monday, June 15. Many luxury apartments near the U offer tanning as a free amenity for their residents despite CDC studies that report an increase in Melanoma cases in recent years.

Ellen Schmidt

At least 10 apartment complexes surrounding the University of Minnesota campus offer free tanning to their residents, a common housing feature at nearly half the country’s 125 top colleges. 
 
The nationwide trend comes hand in hand with an ongoing rise in melanoma rates across the United States. A study released by the Centers for Disease Control earlier this month reported 3.3 percent of people ages 20 to 24 had melanoma, a number expected to increase in white males and females specifically through 2019.
 
An estimated 6,200 cases of melanoma are attributable to indoor tanning each year, the study’s co-author Gery Guy said.
 
“It’s been established that artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation, which come from tanning beds, is a carcinogen and causes melanoma,” said DeAnn Lazovich, a University of Minnesota School of Public Health associate professor. “The fact is that anyone who is using a tanning bed is putting themselves at risk beyond their usual exposure to the sun.”
 
Apartments such as the Elysian, the Venue and 412 Lofts have indoor tanning beds to stay competitive with other apartment complexes, said Angela Bryan, the Elysian’s property manager.
 
“I think it’s an attractive amenity to mostly female college students,” said 412 Lofts property manager Matt Swanson. 
 
Rates of melanoma are higher in women than in men, Guy said, and apartments encouraging tanning run a risk of creating more cases.
 
The Elysian requires students to sign a consent form before using the beds that notifies residents of the health risks of indoor tanning, Bryan said.
 
“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ask about tanning. We just tell them when they’re touring, and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so cool,’” she said. “They think it’s a good thing.”
 
The luxury apartments see spikes in tanning during the cold winter months and before spring break, she said.
 
“Using a tanning bed before going on spring break is a myth. It won’t protect you from getting burned,” Lazovich said. “A tan is a marker of damage to the skin, so even if you don’t get burned, the tan still indicates that the skin has been damaged.”
 
Tanning has its benefits, she said, like providing vitamin D during the winter or treating psoriasis, but she said the risks dwarf the benefits.
 
Though Minnesota has much less sun exposure during the long winter than southern states, it still ranks at the top of skin cancer rates nationwide, Lazovich said.
Retail merchandising junior Claudia Koehn lives at FloCo Fusion apartments and said she used their indoor tanning beds this past winter.
 
“I would say that tanning was an added bonus,” she said. “During the winter, I would do it every other week, but now that it’s summer, I don’t.”
 
Despite the risks, campus-area apartment complexes aren’t planning on taking away the tanning amenity.
 
“I think people should be able to do what they want with their bodies,” Swanson said. “People can educate themselves and make a decision from there.”