Tanning Bed Dangers Underestimated

Another warning on indoor tanning beds dangers; there’s new research appearing in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology that finds the main kind of ultraviolet rays in tanning beds reach a deeper layer of skin that’s even more vulnerable to cancer causing changes.

Cumulative damage like this brings signs of aging… lax skin, brown spots, wrinkles, not to mention skin cancer.

What people, especially young people, need to understand is that whether you get your tan from the beach, a tanning bed, or incidental exposure, that glowing brown color a signal of skin cell damage.

In the latest research, 12 volunteers were exposed to both UVA1 (rays from tanning beds) and UVB rays on their buttocks. UVB waves are shorter, but both doses used in the study were equal to that used for tanning in each of the two spectrums.

The UVA1 rays were more damaging to the deeper basal skin layer than UVB light, and caused more lesions known as thymine dimers in this area.

Interesting that UVB rays brought a large number of these type of lesions overall, but they weren’t as deep into the skin, and are thought less likely to bring the changes that come with skin cancer.

Tanning indoors is like smoking for the skin according to Dr. Doris Day, a Lenox Hill Hospital dermatologist. It’s the worst thing you can do, not only because of the increased risk of skin cancer but also in terms of early aging.

You might have seen ads for tanning salons that suggest time spent in tanning can help boost the body’s natural production of vitamin D, the so called sunshine vitamin. And while vitamin D is so good for you, you don’t need a tanning bed to get it.

A few moments of natural sunlight a few times each week is all it takes. And Day points out that people burn in tanning beds, and both the levels of UVA1 and UVB you get are toxic.

Teens are particularly at risk. Of course kids this age feel immortal, but the truth is they aren’t, even though aging and skin cancer seem so far away. It’s important for young people to realize that melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, is not a disease of old people. It can be growing and spreading without you feeling sick, in a patch of skin you might not even notice.

This new research on tanning beds and skin cancer appears just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is deciding on a ban on the use of tanning beds by children under the age of 18. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports such a ban.

Continues below…

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The experts believe that a FDA ban is what’s needed to keep young people safe. Incidentally, the use of tanning beds by those under 18 is already against the law in England.

Industry groups like the Indoor Tanning Association, based in Washington, D.C. insist that if there were science to back these research claims, the FDA would already have acted. The agency has been investigating these claims since March of this year.

Industry spokespeople also point out that the latest study is about ultraviolet radiation, and tanning beds have the same ratio of UV waves as the sun. UVA1 comes from the sun too… so that the sun and indoor tanning beds offer the same risks and benefits, as long as you don’t burn the skin. There is no research that has found non-burning exposure to the sun (or a sun lamp) causes cancer.

That’s true. But…

Experts believe the broad-spectrum sun protection products on the market today need regulation – it’s also critical for patients, particularly young women, to be educated about the┬átanning bed dangers associated with indoor UVA tanning beds.