The Truth About Indoor Tanning

If you believe what you see on the Internet, indoor tanning offers little risk and lots of benefits. But if you read between the lines, you will see that even the Indoor Tanning Association acknowledges on its website that, “Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer and can cause serious eye injury.”

Before exposing yourself to UV radiation from tanning beds or sun lamps, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these facts from the American Academy of Dermatology.*

Are sunlamps and tanning beds safer than natural sunlight?

No. Most sun lamps and tanning beds emit mainly UVA radiation; these so-called “tanning rays” are less likely to cause a sunburn than UVB radiation from sunlight. Contrary to the claims of some tanning parlors, that does not make them safe, in fact, they cause deeper skin damage. UVA rays have a suspected link to melanoma, and like UVB rays, they also may be linked to immune system damage and premature skin aging.

A review of seven studies found a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma in those who had been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning before the age of 35.

What are the dangers of tanning?

While skin cancer has been associated with sunburn, even moderate tanning may also produce the same effect. UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps may cause skin cancer and can have a damaging effect on the immune system. It can also cause premature aging of the skin, giving it a wrinkled, leathery appearance.

Are people actually being harmed by sunlight?

Yes. The number of skin cancers has been rising over the years due to increasing exposure to UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps. More than 1.3 million new skin cancer cases are likely to be diagnosed in the U.S. this 

Are the types of skin cancer caused by the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps easily curable?

Not necessarily. Melanoma, with a suspected link to UVA exposure, is fatal if not detected early. The number of cases of melanoma is rising in the United States with an estimated 47,700 new cases, and 7,700 deaths anticipated this year.

Does the skin of young people show these harmful effects?

Skin aging and cancer are delayed effects that show up many years after the exposure. Unfortunately, since the damage is not immediately visible, young people are often unaware of the dangers of tanning. It is estimated that cases of skin cancer will continue to increase as people who are tanning in their teens and twenties reach middle age.

* Information excerpted from The Darker Side of Tanning©, published by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Learn more about the connection between skin cancer and indoor tanning in the recent issue of Dermatology Daily.

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