Those who use tanning devices before age 30 have a 75% increase in risk of melanoma, according the the World Health Organization, and duly reported by the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine. The focus of the most recent stories is that--while some regulations are in place to limit tanning among minors--most salons ignore the rules.
The cutie in this picture, Patricia Ellis, was a big-time movie star in the 1930s. You've probably not heard of her because she retired at the height of her fame, in 1939. She married and left Hollywood, but sadly died of cancer in her mid-fifties. This was an early tanning bed--more correctly, a sun lamp setup. No idea whether Ellis used sunlamps frequently or not.
The first real tanning salon opened on August 28, 1978, in Searcy, Arkansas: Tan-trific. By the fall of 1979, Tan-trific had 81 salons in 16 states--and lots of competition. In California, Plan-A-Tan opened in July 1979 in Orange County, and the Tan Factory of Temple City debuted in September. Rather than beds, paying customers stood in 3-foot-square cubicles, basking in the glow of large ultraviolet bulbs shining from each corner. Westinghouse had actually developed the bulbs in 1949.
It was the hottest thing, tanning--even though the link between tanning and skin cancer was already well known.
According to an LA Times story of October 1979, Plan-A-Tan "already boasts 1,153 members." 70 % of the members were female, some as young as 15. Dermatologists prescribed trips to the salons for their psoriasis patients, and most doctors considered the tanning salons safer than long afternoons sunning on the beach. In a November article, the Times did find a couple of dermatologists who sounded the alarm though, calling tanning "a dumb thing to do," and saying "It causes skin cancer." But, the Times pointed out, "Skin cancer . . . is almost always curable."
Ouch. Here's my favorite paragraph, a quote from the VP of Marketing for Sunburst International, a company that planned to build 1000 salons by 1985: "For a dermatologist to say that [the booths are harmful] is like me saying that we should start building a big umbrella all over the United States and keep people out of the sun."
Wonder whatever happened to him? Sunburst International and tanning salons got written up in Time Magazine the next year as the "hottest franchise field around." But after 1980, I don't see much. Anyone?