Worth Repeating: No Such Thing as a Safe Tan

September 23, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Last week headlines across the globe shared the same note on the notion of safe tanning. All headlines seemed to agree.

There is no guarantee that indoor tanning is safe.

From WebMD, September 18, 2008. Healthy Tanning Beds? Experts Say No

Skin Cancer Researchers Oppose Industry Campaign to Portray Tanning Beds as Healthy –“..arguing that there may be no such thing as a safe tan, Society of Melanoma Research President David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, and colleagues accuse the industry of trying to confuse the public about the health benefits of tanning.”

While tanning bed are less likely to cause burns there is no doubt that UV radiation still leads to melanoma and the side effects of premature aging (wrinkles and drying of the skin), eye damage and immune suppression.

The FDA states the following:

  • There is no such thing as a safe tan. The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage.
  • Once skin is exposed to UV radiation, it increases the production of melanin in an attempt to protect the skin from further damage.
  • Getting a tan will not protect your skin from sunburn or other skin damage. The extra melanin in tanned skin provides a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of about 2 to 4; far below the minimum recommended SPF of 15.

So consider these facts:

The American Cancer Society says that people 35 or younger who used tanning beds regularly had a melanoma risk eight-fold higher than people who never used tanning beds. Even occasional use among that age group almost tripled the chances of developing melanoma.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of cancer that forms in the melanocyte cells, which are the cells that form the melanin or pigment of the skin. Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but is the most serious type of skin cancer. Like other skin cancers, it is often curable in the early stages. It can occur anywhere on the skin, but most likely occurs in the trunk of men and the legs of women. The face and neck are also common sites. Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body.

Prevention can be as simple as understanding the UV light index for your area, limiting UV exposure (including tanning beds), wearing sunglasses, protective clothing and sunscreen and. Mole inspection and removal is another important facet of the prevention of melanoma.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that in the U.S. in 2008 there will be 62,480 new cases of melanoma and 8,420 melanoma deaths.

Is it worth the risk?

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