Have you heard the latest marketing campaign coming from the tanning industry? Walk into any tanning salon today, and employees will tell you that tanning is good for you! 

For example: They’ll say that it’s a good source of vitamin D, which is proven to boost bone health, and immune function. They may also hand out brochures from the International Smart Tan Network, like one we read about, where a doctor is quoted saying that tanning is “natural,” and that tanning in a salon is “more sensible” than tanning outdoors, because you’re in a “controlled environment.”

We’ve also read about new training videos, which teach salon employees how to be good “D-Angels.” That’s the term for workers who are encouraged to spread the message that tanning is healthful, and anyone who says otherwise is part of a big “Sun Scare” conspiracy. Because the way the tanning industry sees it, doctors are being paid to tell us that tanning is bad, because it helps sell more sunscreen!

As you might guess, all of this is a reaction to the message that a growing number of scientists and doctors have been spreading for years. That tanning in a salon increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer!

So, who’s right? Is tanning really as “natural” as being out in the sun. Or do the health risks of tanning outweigh all the benefits we’re hearing about? We’ll get to the bottom of it after this.

Unfortunately, all these claims go against more than 40 years of research showing that indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer! In fact, the number of melanoma cases have skyrocketed almost as fast as the indoor tanning industry has grown.

Experts say the connection is so strong that the American Cancer Society now describes tanning beds as “carcinogenic.”

You should also know this: Many of the health claims the tanning industry uses come from a group called the “Vitamin D Foundation.” And it turns out, that group is run by executives who are IN the tanning business, meaning they have a personal stake in making tanning look good.

That’s why experts are comparing this new campaign from the tanning industry to one the tobacco industry ran, when studies first showed that cigarettes cause lung cancer. Years ago, they ran ads claiming the scientists had it all wrong.

But here's the real deal: The World Health Organization says that tanning beds are among the top cancer risks, and as deadly as arsenic, mustard gas or cigarettes. Also, most tanning beds emit mainly U-V-A rays, which increase the risk of melanoma. And 15 minutes in a tanning bed is the equivalent of spending hours in the sun.

So really, the tanning booth is the new cigarette, and just as deadly.