The Dangers of Indoor Tanning

12 Apr

Tanning beds are not a safe alternative to outdoor tanning; in fact, both can increase your risk of skin cancer.

There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ tan. A tan is the body’s response to injury from UV exposure. Your body produces melanin as a protective reaction to the exposure of ultraviolet radiation.

The first sign of skin cancer is a nice tan. – Anonymous

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent) – whether from the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. The development of skin cancer may take years. The risk is real and present, even when the damage isn’t immediately visible.

Just one use of an indoor tanning bed can increase risk of both squamous and basal cell carcinoma. Indoor tanning is particularly hazardous for younger users. People who begin tanning at a younger age have an increased risk in developing melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Tanning bed use prior to vacationing is another suspect practice that ought to be avoided. While the risk of sunburn may be diminished, this does not offset the increased skin cancer risks. Reducing your UV light exposure on vacation (see below) is a far safer strategy

Tanning – regardless of the source – causes premature aging of the skin

  • Wrinkles and loss of elasticity to the skin
  • Discoloration and ‘blotchiness’
  • Changes to the texture of the skin, including increased roughner

The Science

Ultraviolet light hitting the earth’s surface is divided into the “A” spectrum (UVA) and the “B” spectrum (UVB). UVA light tends to promote tanning while UVB light tends to promote sunburn.

Tanning salons may claim the UVA light produced by tanning beds is safer than natural sunlight, but this is not borne out by the facts. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply, degrading collagen and elastic fibers, and mutating cellular DNA.

The claims of the safety of tanning beds relate to their lower likelihood of causing sunburn, sidestepping the substantial permanent damage caused at both the molecular and cellular levels.

The bottom line: tanning isn’t a good idea. Instead, practice good sun ‘hygiene’ to protect your skin:

Wear sun protective clothing.

  • Avoid the peak hours of the most intense sun exposure from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Use SPF 45 sunscreen every few hours when outdoors.
  • Do not increasing risk by tanning – indoors or out.

These are the best prevention measures one may take to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.