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Wellness Tips: tanning beds

English: A Sunvision Elite tanning bed switche...

Nearly 30 million people in the United States tan in tanning salons every year. On average, that is more than one million people a day. More than 70 percent are Caucasian females, ages 16 to 49 years.

It’s Big Business: The indoor tanning industry’s revenues have increased fivefold since 1992 to about $5 billion.

Our Youth Are At Risk: A total of 2.3 million teens visit tanning salons every year. The younger you are when you start indoor tanning, the greater your risk of melanoma, according to a Swedish study. A review of seven studies reveals that the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent if exposed to tanning beds before the age of 35. Although the World Health Organization has called for teens to be banned from indoor tanning due to the dangers, only half of the states regulate tanning bed use by teens.

It’s a Proven Danger: Many studies show that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is a definite risk factor for melanoma. Using a tanning bed more than 10 times a year made people seven times more likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who did not use tanning beds as often. The risk of melanoma was increased by 300 percent for those using tanning beds occasionally, and by 800 percent for those using tanning beds more than 10 times a year. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that about 38,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year in the U.S. and 7,300 people will die from this condition. The United States Department of Health & Human Services names UV radiation from the sun, and from artificial sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a proven carcinogen – a cancer causing substance.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise people to avoid tanning and the use of sun lamps. The CDC reports that tanning beds also cause serious eye concerns, including conjunctivitis, corneal infections and retinal damage.

There’s no such thing as a “safe tan:” Sunlight contains different wavelengths of UV light. UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin and cause tanning. UVB rays damage the more superficial skin layers and cause sunburn. Many tanning salons claim that indoor tanning is safe because you are exposed to more tanning UVA rays than burning UVB rays. Medical research disproves this claim. Skin cancer is certainly associated with sunburn from UVB rays, but scientists at the FDA and other respected institutions now have evidence that even moderate tanning due to UVA rays produces the same long-term skin damage as a sunburn, increasing your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging, and damaging your immune system. UVA rays penetrate deep into your skin, causing significant destruction and loss of skin elasticity. UVA exposure is associated with an increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Indoor tanning may actually be more dangerous than the sun. Traditional tanning beds and sun lamps typically give off about three times the UVA rays that are emitted by the sun. New, high-pressure sunlamps emit doses of both UVA and UVB rays that can be as much as 15 times that of the sun. Tanning beds are also proven to cause sunburns, and just one sunburn doubles your risk of developing skin cancer.

Tanning salons claim that tanning is necessary to obtain sufficient quantities of vitamin D. In fact, it takes far less UV light to obtain the necessary amount of vitamin D than it does to get a suntan.

Bottom line: Beware of tanning beds! Pretty much every scientifically accepted study shows the strong association of tanning beds with skin cancer.

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