Tanning Beds Are Dangerous! Seriously.

By: Jenna Trubschenck, M.S. PA-C

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Did you know that going into tanning beds actually damages the DNA of the skin cells? When this occurs, bad things happen: photoaging of the skin, including yellowing, dark spots, wrinkling, telectasias (dilated capillaries), and/or mild atrophy of the skin. However, cosmetic concerns are not going to the focal point of this post. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds is carcinogenic. Numerous studies reveal a direct correlation between tanning bed usage and skin cancers. Premalignant actinic keratoses (AKs), which can develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and melanoma have all been extensively linked to tanning beds.

Tanners are 1.5 times more likely to develop a BCC than non-tanners. Tanners are also 2.5 times more likely to develop an SCC than non-tanners.

Melanoma is the worst type of skin cancer to get, and the evidence that tanning beds are a risk factor for melanoma is overwhelming. Melanoma is the most common skin cancer diagnosed among 25-29 year olds. 1 in 58 people will develop melanoma over a lifetime, and UV light is the only modifiable risk factor for this malignant cancer. Tanning bed usage prior to age 35 increases melanoma risk by 87% compared to never using tanning beds. The risk of developing melanoma increases with even 1 tanning bed exposure. And the younger the age that someone uses a tanning bed, the more of a potential increase for melanoma.

Gone are the days when we thought getting sun was healthy. Getting Vitamin D from a tanning bed is not appropriate justification to tan, and, in fact, the Federal Trade Commission sued the Indoor Tanning Association over such claims. If you desire a tan, a spray tan is a much safer alternative.

Sun protection and UV prevention are of utmost importance. Moving forward, tanning bed practices should be discontinued. Use SPF sunscreens and/or avoid exposure to the sun. It is important to examine your skin for new or changing lesions and to get regular skin exams by a your dermatology provider.