Researchers at the University of Connecticut have found that around half of the gyms in the United States provide members with tanning beds, which are considered a potentially addictive carcinogen. Ironically, exercise reduces the risk of every cancer except for melanoma, and people who exercise the most are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. To make matters worse, people who tan in gyms tend to exercise more often and more addictively.
Study co-author and psychologist Sherry Pagoto said that “by pairing exercise with tanning beds, gyms send the message that tanning is part of a healthy lifestyle. It is not.”
The investigation was focused on 636 individuals who had any history of using tanning beds. Overall, 24 percent reported tanning at a gym at least one time.
Those who reported tanning at a gym tended to tan obsessively and were more likely to fit a profile of addictive tanning.
The study also revealed that more frequent tanning was associated with intense exercise, which raises concerns due to the connection between heavy exercise and skin cancer risk.
“Exercise and tanning are both things people use to look better, which may be why we see a connection between these two behaviors, and why gyms are providing tanning beds to patrons,” said Pagoto.
The link between exercise and a higher risk of skin cancer is still not clearly understood, but it is known that the majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, which is generated by tanning beds.
Even infrequent use of tanning beds has been found to triple the risk of melanoma. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, the incidence of skin cancer has been on the rise in the United States for the past three decades.
The American Cancer Society reports that 91,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2018, and around 9,000 will die from it.
“Indoor tanning is the same class of carcinogen as tobacco, radon, and arsenic,” said Pagoto. “Those are not things you’d want around you while you’re working out.”
The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology.