By Marie Parks
Tanning Beds and CancerLooking like you’ve just returned from a vacation in the tropics may be desirable to most of us, but it comes with long-term skin cancer risks. If you’re a “tanning booth enthusiast” you may not want to hear this, but it’s pretty straightforward: Tanning beds are dangerous.
A study done by Lazovich et al. (2010) showed that individuals who tan indoor are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. 1 Based on the fact that melanoma rates have been increasing for the last 30 years, the American Cancer Society has estimated that about 76,250 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2012. 2
Are There Safe Tanning Beds?Some tanning bed companies claim that their tanning beds are ‘safer’ because they use UVA instead of UVB rays. UVB rays are shorter wave than UVA and are more associated with causing skin cancers. However, since UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, they cause damage to collagen which gives our skin its elasticity.
Therefore, UVA rays can promote skin aging by causing wrinkles and a leathery appearance. Further research in this area has also shown that UVA rays can damage melanocytes (skin cells that produce pigment) resulting in malignant melanoma, the form of skin cancer which has shown to be most deadly.
So, in summary no — there aren’t any “safe” tanning beds. Avoid them all.
UV Exposure Adds UpExposing yourself to excessive UV rays through indoor tanning is under your direct, conscious control. However, we’re all exposed to UV rays just by going about our daily lives when we go outside. Even if you’re not outside for a prolonged period of time, the brief exposure to UV rays can add up.
This is why it’s important to take measures to protect yourself, such as applying sunscreen. It is almost equally important to look at the label of the sunscreen you choose. Many sunscreens include only ingredients to protect against UVB rays (which are more likely to result in sunburn).
However, only certain ingredients also provide protection from UVA rays, such as zinc oxide, oxybenzone, and avobenzone. You can read more about sunscreens in the following articles:
Sunless Tanning Products are on the RiseThere are alternatives to indoor and outdoor tanning. Sunless tanning products are available in the form of creams, gels, lotions, and sprays. Dihydroxyacetone is the active ingredient in these products. While these products do not provide UV radiation, the long-term risks of dihydroxyacetone are currently unknown. 3
Appreciate the natural color of your skin and you are more likely to be rewarded with better looking skin and good health for many years.
By the way, we have a great healthy skin protocol. It’s jammed packed with all sorts of great suggestions for healthy looking skin in and out of the sun. Check it out; your skin will love you for it!
- Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jun;19(6):1557-68. Epub 2010 May 26.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2012.
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