By Maj. Sunghun Cho, Dermatologist for Bavaria Medical Department Activity March 4, 2013
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - On an average day, more than a million people tan in one of the several thousand tanning salons in the U.S., but the damage people get from the expose to this $5-billion-dollar tanning industry can be devastating.
Tanning beds emit a much higher proportion of Ultraviolet A radiation compared to Ultraviolet B radiation, which is similar to the sun. The intensity of Ultraviolet radiation from a tanning bed can be 10 to 15 times more than midday sun. UVA rays are responsible for tanning and development of age spots. UVA rays also causes premature aging of the skin by destroying collagen underneath the superficial layer of the skin. UVB rays target the superficial layers of the skin and cause sunburns. Both UVA and UVB rays are linked to the development of skin cancer and immune suppression of the skin.
The risks associated with indoor tanning are high. Skin cancers are the most common types of cancers. One in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. The majority of diagnosed skin cancers are Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers -- basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. There is a very high cure rate for NMCSs and it is extremely rare for these skin cancers to spread to other parts of the body. Although melanomas make up less than 5 percent of skin cancers overall, they are the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and cause the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
Indoor tanning is not a safe alternative to outdoor tanning. Indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma 75 percent, squamous cell carcinomas 67 percent and basal cell carcinomas 29 percent. Just one indoor tanning session increases the tanner's risk of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year boosts that risk almost another 2 percent.
In 2009, the World Health Organization classified ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices as a Class 1 carcinogen, the same category as tobacco smoke, asbestos, and plutonium.
Debunking misconceptions about indoor tanning:
1. There is a misconception that indoor tanning offers much better protection from being burned. An indoor tan provides a natural Sun Protection Factor of between two and four. This is far below the SPF of at least 30 recommended to protect from sunburns. Thousands of emergency department visits a year in the U.S. are due to burns from indoor tanning.
2. A common misconception is a person needs indoor tanning to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D. A healthy diet, and if needed, oral Vitamin D supplements provide a more reliable, cheaper and safer way to obtain needed Vitamin D.
3. Another misconception is that indoor tanning is a good way to treat skin rashes and acne. Medical light therapy used for these purposes is very different from a tanning bed. Usually, a very specific band of UVB radiation is used, with less side effects and cancer risk than indoor tanning. Tanning may help some forms of acne but the effects are not long lasting and when used with other acne treatments, can cause burning or irritation of the skin. The immune suppressing effects of tanning beds combined with microbes that may be on tanning beds can increase the risk of skin infections, which can sometimes mimic acne.
Sunless tanning known as spray tanning typically use dihydroxyacetone (DHA) or bronzers to give a tanned look to the skin and is a good alternative to indoor tanning. DHA interacts with the proteins on the skin to give a safe tan that last three to 10 days. Bronzers are often tinted moisturizers or powders similar to makeup.
For more information about the dangers of indoor tanning, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology or www.skincancer.org.