The Dangers of Tanning Indoors or Outdoors
Ever been mistaken for Casper the Friendly Ghost? Even if you're not quite that white, you might still value a nice tan. Many people think a little color gives them a healthier maybe even sexier look.
So isn't it ironic that getting that glorious tan can actually put you at risk?
When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation whether from the sun or a tanning device your skin reacts by producing more melanin. That's the pigment that darkens your skin. In addition to bringing on premature wrinkling, skin spots, and a "lovely" leathery look down the road, tanning can also suppress your body's immune system and cause eye damage or allergic reactions.1
Some people even develop skin cancer from too much UV radiation. Were you one of those kids who shunned skin protection or overstayed your time in the sun? If so, you probably had a severe sunburn or two, putting you at greater risk for the deadliest form of skin cancer: melanoma.1
But the sun isn't the only culprit. Tanning devices like sunlamps used in tanning beds are more dangerous than previously thought. A few years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) looked at 19 studies conducted over 25 years. It found a link between indoor tanning and two kinds of skin cancer, as well as melanoma of the eye. The risk of skin melanoma increased by 75 percent when indoor tanning began before age 35. As a result, the agency moved these devices into the highest cancer risk category: "carcinogenic to humans." 1
Time to take stock of that warning. That's especially true if you have pale skin; blond, red or light brown hair, or you or a family member has had skin cancer.2 Melanoma is the second most common cancer in women in their 20s. And, one in eight with melanoma die from the disease.1
So, besides avoiding tanning salons, what can you do? Take precautions, whether you're at the poolside or on the ski slopes. If you can, limit time in the sun when rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and long pants, when possible. Use a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Make sure it protects against all types of skin damage (called broad spectrum).
Be sure to apply sunscreen to areas of uncovered skin about 15 minutes before you go outside. And pay special attention to your nose, ears, neck, lips, and hands. Reapply, after two hours. If you have a child younger than 6 months, talk with the doctor or me before you apply sunscreen. And, check with us about any medications and cosmetics you're using. Some make you more sensitive to UV rays. 1,2
What else? Buy sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent UV protection even for your kids. 2 If you're not sure whether yours offer this protection, check with your eye care professional. Remember that you can find many of these sun protection products right here, in our store.
1. FDA: "Indoor Tanning: The Risks of Ultraviolet Rays." http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm186687.htm
2. FDA: "Sun Safety: Save Your Skin!" http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049090.htm