How Healthy are Tans?
A tan is no different from a sunburn in terms of the effect on our skin. Tanning is an indication that your skin has been exposed to UV radiation; none of which is known to be safe.
Ever since a tan was the sign of health and vitality, we have been battling the culture of society about the dangers of sun damage to our skin. Back in the 1920s they didn't know much about the dangers of UV radiation, any more than they knew about the dangers of smoking. Now, we know so much more, and yet for some reason much of society still believes that a tan is the ultimate sign of good health.
Sunburns and tans are both dangerous because they cause DNA damage to our skin. Your risk of developing melanoma increases after just one blistering sunburn. Squamous cell cancer increases based on your lifetime exposure to UV rays. Basal cell carcinoma risk increases based on the combination of intense sun exposure and lifetime exposure to UV radiation. UV radiation comes from the sun…and from tanning beds.
Tanning beds are not safe. Both UVA and UVB rays cause cancer. Tanning beds often exceed “safe” UV limits, despite the claims of the salon. Teens are at special risk because their bodies are undergoing such accelerated growth rates that their cells are more prone to the damage of the UV radiation. By routinely tanning their skin starting at a young age, teens put themselves at greater lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get a sunburn in a tanning bed, and your eyes are at an increased risk of developing cataracts and corneal burns.
My Salon Says Their Tanning Beds are Safe
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but salons are merely marketing their wares and not telling you the truth. Salons may take the position that their tanning beds only make use of UVA rays, and tell you that they aren't quite as dangerous as UVB rays. A recent study in Australia has proven that UVA rays are even more of a cancer danger than previously thought.
Some salons try to persuade you that you need to get more vitamin D into your system, possibly even to prevent osteoporosis. While it may be true that you need more Vitamin D, the amount of time you need to spend in the sun in order to absorb Vitamin D is far less than is required for a tan.
UV radiation comes from the sun and from tanning beds. UV radiation damages our skin and adversely affects our immune system. As previously mentioned, one blistering sunburn increases your risk of developing melanoma, which is a very dangerous and lethal skin cancer. You are also 2.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma.
The FDA and the CDC both suggest that you avoid using tanning beds in order to prevent developing skin cancer. There really is no such thing as a safe tan from a tanning bed. In addition to the risk of developing skin cancer, exposure to UV rays causes your skin to age prematurely.
It's time we rethink our position on the standards of beauty. Tan really is not beautiful; it is a walking advertisement for skin cancer.