The Dangers of Tanning Beds

Sunbed Coffin, by Luciano Podcaminsky

A 2013 article in Women's Health Magazine stated that "tanning beds might as well be coffins." Many people downplay the dangers of tanning beds. Some people think that  they're less likely to get a sunburn in a tanning bed than outside. That may be true, because tanning beds emit mostly UVA rays--the ones that are responsible for skin damage but not sunburn. But tanning beds are not safer than the sun. When you use a tanning bed to get bronzed, you're getting 15 times more UV radiation than if you're tanning outside.

Less Outdoor Tanning=More Sunburn?

More than 2.5 million young women in their teenage years use tanning beds. At least one third of girls age 17 report tanning indoors. One study showed that although people were covering up more with sun protective clothing, seeking shade and staying out of the sun more frequently from 2000 to 2011, the incidence of sunburn did not decrease.

In any case, it doesn't take a sunburn to damage your skin. Any time your skin is tanned, it is signaling to you that it has been damaged.

Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes

In 2009, Cosmopolitan teamed up with 20/20 to uncover some ways in which tanning salons are knowingly attempting to mislead consumers. Journalists interviewed employees and owners of tanning salons across the country.

They heard tanning salon personnel tell customers that because their tanning lotion was thick, it would help them get a safe tan. One person was told that the tanning bed has SPF built into it.

Any dermatologist will tell you that there is no debate or controversy surrounding the dangers of tanning beds. All studies point to the dangers of tanning beds. Anyone who has been in a tanning bed before age 30 has increased his or her skin cancer risk by 75 percent. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer placed tanning beds in the highest cancer risk category.

One of the Surprising Dangers of Tanning

Perhaps you already know all about the dangers of tanning beds. But here's a surprising fact: tanning can be addictive. Researchers have found that UV light can actually release feel-good chemicals in your brain that make you want more. It may be common sense that the image-enhancing psychological benefits of tanning can be addictive.

However, people who tan frequently may also experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Quitting can be more difficult for people who started tanning at an earlier age and who tan more frequently. In addition, teenagers who use indoor tanning beds may also exhibit other risk-taking behavior.

The bottom line is that tanning beds are dangerous, and not just because they increase your risk for melanoma. They can lead you down a path to other unhealthy behaviors. Don't believe the myths, and don't believe that a tan is healthy. It's not, whether you got it indoors or out.

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