If you’re like most people, you don’t want to show up at the beach or pool party looking like you spent your life in a flour sack. You want that glowing bronze-healthy tan. So you schedule a few hours a week at your local tanning salon to “brown up.” You’re not alone. Indoor tanning has grown to a $5-billion-dollar industry. There are more tanning salons in an average city than Starbucks or McDonald’s. But are indoor tanning booths really safe? Here are some sobering facts you might consider before you tan up with some “indoor rays.”
Bombarding You with UVA & UVB
Your typical tanning booth exposes your skin to ultraviolet (UV) A and B radiation. UVA rays penetrate your skin’s top layers and usually give you a sunburn. UVB rays penetrate deeper, causing rashes, wrinkles and “leatherized” skin as you get older. Sadly, both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. What tanning operators sometimes neglect to tell you is that the levels of UVA and UVB radiation exposure you get from their tanning booths can sometimes be higher than tanning directly from the sun.
Altering You Skin’s DNA
Several studies have shown that tanning booths can increase your risk of getting melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 75 percent. The truth is that UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, which can trigger such skin cancers as melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. It can also cause premature skin aging and even suppress your immune system. A recent meta-analysis published in 2014 by Colantonio and colleagues revealed that using tanning beds was linked with a subsequent melanoma diagnosis, and that exposure from more than 10 tanning sessions was most strongly associated with these diagnoses. What’s more, there was no statistically significant difference between the use of newer and older tanning technologies.
400,000 Cases of Skin Cancer Annually
A 2014 study by Wehner and colleagues estimates that more than 410,000 non-melanoma skin cancer cases and more than 10,0000 melanoma-related skin cancer cases may be linked to indoor tanning in the U.S., Australia and Europe each year. It’s no wonder most dermatologists discourage the use of tanning salons, and why the World Health Organization classified tanning beds as a definite cancer risk.
Opt for Tanning Creams
Sunless tanning creams or self-tanners can give you a tanned look without exposing you to harmful UV rays. Sold as lotions or sprays, the active ingredient in these is the color additive dihydroxyacetone, which reacts with dead, surface skin cells to temporarily darken the skin. The coloring typically wears off after a few days, but these sunless tanning products are generally considered a safe alternative to direct sunlight or tanning booths if used as directed.