Tanning Beds: Just Say No
Here’s a chance to set a great example for your kids while protecting your own skin as well: Just say no to tanning beds.
The recent increased use of tanning beds by teenagers has contributed to a sharp rise in melanoma rates in young people, says dermatologist Joshua Fox, MD. The short-term bronzing effects from tanning beds are simply not worth the possible long-term consequences of increased skin cancer risk and premature aging.
“Particularly during the teenage years, continued use of a tanning bed or sun lamp can be quite dangerous,” Dr. Fox says. “It can increase your risk of developing malignant melanoma by more than 55 percent, and it can about double your chances of basal cell and/or squamous-cell cancer.”
“The reason teens are so at risk is that they are still experiencing such tremendous growth at the cellular level,” Dr. Fox explains. “Their skin cells, like every other cell in their bodies, are dividing more rapidly than they do when we reach adulthood. And the more rapidly cells change, the higher the chances are that they will change detrimentally — particularly when hit by the deleterious effects of the sun — and cancer will develop.”
For adults who are already concerned with the aging effects of skin damage from the sun, the evidence is clear, according to the AAD and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can also have a damaging effect on the immune system and cause premature aging of the skin, giving it a wrinkled, leathery appearance.
And contrary to what some people assume, not all skin cancers are easily curable. Malignant melanoma, which has a suspected link to UV exposure, is often fatal if not detected early.
Health agencies encourage parents of teens to review the dangers of tanning beds with their children, and to prohibit their use. And remember to set an example by taking good care of your own skin. There are many safe, FDA-approved self-tanning creams, gels and sprays that can give the appearance of a natural tan without the possibly devastating side effects of tanning beds or too much sun.
Kathy Sena is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to MetroKids.