Danger of Tanning Beds
Tanning beds have become a popular way to achieve a tan during times of the year when ultraviolet radiation (UV) levels are low. This is a convenience for many, but it comes with a downside. Tanning beds can damage the skin significantly, even leading to skin cancer.
Tanning beds emit UV radiation to produce a cosmetic tan . These beds use a number of fluorescent lamps to emit UV light in a spectrum similar to that of the sun. Beds found in tanning salons typically have 24 to 60 lamps per bed that emit from 100 to 200 watts.
The World Health Organization does not recommend the use of tanning beds because of the known adverse health effects to UV exposure, including skin cancer, premature skin aging, and cataracts. Tanning beds emit UV light, which also increases the chances of developing melanoma — the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Tricia Thompson was only 32 when her hairstylist first noticed a dark brown mole near her ear. “I didn’t think much of it,” said Tricia, who went to a dermatologist and had the mole frozen off. But a year later, her hairstylist noticed that the mole had returned, this time with a greenish-blue color.
Tricia went to a different dermatologist, who took a biopsy. Tricia was shocked to learn that the mole was melanoma. The dermatologist explained to Tricia that at best she would wind up with a disfiguring scar. At worse, the melanoma would kill her. Tricia worked at an indoor tanning salon during high school and college. She took advantage of the opportunity to tan several times a week from the age of 14 to 21. She had to sign a waiver, but never fully understood the risks involved with tanning beds.
Tricia had surgery, and the melanoma was removed. However, she lost the top quarter of her ear, which was eventually surgically reconstructed. Unfortunately, at her six-month follow-up appointment, Tricia learned that the melanoma had returned. Another surgery was needed, and this time about one-third of her earlobe was removed.
Tanning Bed Cancer Risks
Tanning beds are known to increase the chances of developing skin cancer. A review of 19 published studies on tanning beds and skin cancers by the International Journal of Cancer found that tanning bed use prior to age 35 raised the risk of developing melanoma by a whopping 75 percent.
Tanning Beds and Premature Skin Aging
Tanning beds can also prematurely age the skin. UV radiation exposure eventually leads to photoaging, wrinkles, and a leathery skin appearance.
A German study tracked 59 people who used tanning beds over a three-month time frame. The use of a tanning bed created a DNA mutation in their skin that is correlated with photo-aging, according to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
A study conducted by Aging Cell also found that UV exposure increases the rate of accumulation of DNA mutations in skin cells that are linked to premature skin aging.