tanning bed

Tanning Beds Cause Cancer, But Will People Stop Tanning?

June 21, 2010 05:30 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
Tanning beds join cigarettes and hepatitis B as definitive causes of cancer. But the threat of melanoma might not be enough to stop young people from tanning.

Tanning Beds, Ultraviolet Radiation Are Carcinogens

This week, scientists in the International Agency for Research on Cancer released a report in The Lancet Oncology listing some cancer-causing mechanisms. In that list of definite carcinogens were ultraviolet radiation and tanning beds.

According to Maria Cheng of the AP, tanning beds and UVA radiation were previously only classified as “probable carcinogens.” The move to the definite carcinogen list is a result of studies showing that risk of skin cancer increased 75 percent with use of a tanning bed for young adults. Although many types of skin cancer are not deadly, the risk of deadly melanoma also increased 20 percent with use of a tanning bed.

No Such Thing as a “Safe” Tanning Bed or “Healthy Tan”

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society warns that claims that some tanning beds are “safe” because they use more UVA than UVB radiation in the bulbs have now been definitively proven false, and that there is no safe tanning bed.

In 2008, after studies were released that many Americans were not getting sufficient vitamin D, the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) launched a campaign promoting the health benefits of tanning. The American Academy of Dermatology fought back by explaining that the UV levels in tanning beds are many times greater than those from the sun. In his blog, Dr. Lichtenfeld warns that the promotion of a “healthy tan” for vitamin D is not valid. He points out that over-the-counter vitamins and a healthy diet can provide sufficient amounts of the vitamin.

Will Teens and Young Women Stop Tanning?

But teens and young women may not heed the conclusive evidence about tanning beds and cancer. Many young people see tan skin as an indication of health and beauty, and reports say that millions of teenagers visit tanning salons each year, despite continuing warnings about the effects of UV damage. So despite the apathy among teens toward the health risks of tanning, Dr. Lichtenfeld suggests that perhaps this new classification of tanning beds as carcinogens will ignite changes in laws regarding tanning age.

Protecting Your Skin From Sun Damage

Going out in the sun is part of life, but damaging your skin in the process doesn’t have to be. The Sun Protection Web Guide explains the dangers of sun exposure and provides tips and tools to help you and your children stay safe in the sun, choose protective clothing and sun block. 

Also, for best protection, remember to apply sun block before you go outdoors and reapply every hour.

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