For people who want a golden (or darker) glow, indoor tanning beds are NOT a safe alternative to the sun. In fact, they are quite harmful, explains Mason Gomberg, MD, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, in his recent blog.
Mistakenly, many people think tanning beds are safer than the sun since they only emit UVA radiation and the sun emits both UVA and UVB rays.
In fact, tanning beds emit ultraviolet radiation which is a significant risk factor for skin cancers, including malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In addition, many tanning beds emit rays that are 10-15 times higher than midday sun exposure and their rays go deeper into the skin, thus adding to a more dangerous condition.
Despite the increased cancer risk, an estimated 28 million people in North America use indoor tanning beds
Nearly 2.3 million teens have used indoor tanning devices. The prevalence of indoor tanning can be as high as 20-30% of adolescent girls. Potentially, this will increase the risk of melanoma later in life by 50-70%.
The earlier a person starts tanning and the more tanning that is done, the greater the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. One group of researchers concluded that as few as 4 tanning session per year could lead to an 11% increase in the risk of developing melanoma.
A safer alternative to indoor tanning
Many sunless tanning products contain dihydroxyacetone, a chemical that combines with an outer skin protein to cause a reaction that simulates tanning. It is nontoxic, has few side effects and usually will not cause an allergic skin reaction.
However, the strongest discouragers of teenage indoor tanning? Parents.
Two of the strongest predictions of teenage indoor tanning are 1) permissive attitudes by parents and 2) the use of these devices by parents themselves. Hopefully, parents and teens will educate themselves, fast, about the dangers of indoor tanning and will stop this very harmful practice.
To read Dr. Gomberg’s blog in full, click here.