Gyms are places people go to get healthier.
But a recent study from University of Connecticut shows that nearly half the gyms in the U.S. contain a potentially addictive carcinogen—tanning beds.
People who tan in gyms tan more often – and more addictively – than other people who use tanning beds.
Exercise reduces the risk of every cancer except one—melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
People who exercise heavily are at greater risk of skin cancer, and yet many gyms in the U.S. have tanning beds.
In other words, tanning beds in gyms are targeting people who are already at higher risk of skin cancer.
Exercise and tanning are both activities people use to improve their appearance.
In the study, the team surveyed 636 people who had used a tanning bed at least once in their life. Of those people, 24% had tanned in a gym at least once.
They found that people who reported tanning at a gym tended to be heavier tanners overall, and were more likely to fit a profile of addictive tanning.
These people agreed with statements such as “My urges to indoor tan keep getting stronger if I don’t indoor tan,” and “at times, I have used money intended for bills to pay for my tanning sessions.”
The study also found that greater tanning was linked to more frequent exercise, which is especially concerning, because of the connection between heavy exercise and skin cancer risk.
Researchers don’t know why exercise is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer.
But they do know that the majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, which is what tanning beds produce.
Ongoing, occasional use of tanning beds triples a person’s lifelong risk of melanoma, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
The incidence of skin cancer has been rising for 30 years in the U.S.
About 91,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2018, and about 9,000 will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
The researchers suggest that indoor tanning is the same class of carcinogen as tobacco, radon, and arsenic. Those are not things people want around while they are working out.
Lead author psychologist Sherry Pagoto is a professor of allied health sciences at UConn as well as president of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
The study is published in JAMA Dermatology.
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