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The burning truth about indoor tanning

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If you’re easing out of your winter cocoon and planning to slip into a tanning bed for a bronzing, consider the poor moth drawn to a flame: it’s headed for trouble. Experts agree that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning devices damages the skin and increases your risk of cancer.

In its ads, tanning device seller Mercola promised its tanning beds, booths, and lamps were “safe,” would “slash your risk of cancer,” and emitted a red light that could reverse the signs of aging. Mercola’s ads also claimed the FDA endorsed indoor tanning as safe.

Not so, says the FTC, which announced that Joseph Mercola and his companies,, LLC, and Health Resources, LLC, will refund up to $5.3 million to customers under a settlement with the agency. The FTC says Mercola’s claims were false or not backed by science. The FTC also called Mercola out for claiming that the Vitamin D Council endorsed its devices as safe, without disclosing that the Council was paid for the endorsement.

The settlement permanently bans Mercola and his companies from the indoor tanning business, prohibits them from making safety and health claims about any other devices unless they have reliable scientific evidence, and requires them to disclose their ties to any endorsers.

For the record: no government agency recommends indoor tanning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Surgeon General, and the FDA all warn that indoor tanning can cause skin cancers including melanoma — the deadliest type of skin cancer — and basal and squamous cell carcinoma. They also warn that indoor tanning can cause premature aging, immune suppression, and eye damage. The FDA requires indoor tanning equipment to bear signs warning users of the cancer risk and the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer recommends that people avoid indoor tanning completely.

Visit our website to learn more about indoor tanning.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness


Your article doesn't mention that Mercola recommends only 5 minutes of exposure at a time to the tanning lights. How much cancer has been caused by five minutes per day?

The FTC charged that Dr. Joseph Mercola and his two companies ran ads claiming that:

  • their indoor tanning systems are safe
  • research proves indoor tanning does not increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer, and
  • their systems, which deliver both ultraviolet (UV) light and red light, can “reverse the appearance of aging.”

The FTC’s complaint alleged that these claims are false, misleading, or unsubstantiated.

According to the complaint, the ads also falsely stated that  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has endorsed the use of indoor tanning systems as safe.

According to the FTC, the ads also represented that an organization called the Vitamin D Council has recommended the tanning systems, but didn't disclose that the Council was paid for its endorsement.

So I'm looking at the claim form and is asking for a reference number. What is that?

I sent in my claim form before the deadline. When will I receive my refund?

We expect to start sending refunds in February 2017.

I purchased a Mercola tanning bed 1 year prior to the 1/1/12 date. Do i have any recourse in this matter or would i need to file my own suit?

The refunds don't cover purchases of Mercola brand indoor tanning systems made before January 1, 2012.

How were people notified? I purchased a SunSplash 10 from Mercola and am just seeing this information now. My address has not changed since I purchased it.

If you bought Mercola brand indoor tanning systems made after January 1, 2012, and you want more information about refunds, make a copy of the first comment you sent, and send the copy to:

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