How dangerous are tanning beds? Shedding light on the risks.

Tanning beds have gained massive popularity worldwide due to the desire for tanned skin. Tanning salons are in every corner, offering customers an opportunity to get a quick tan without exposing themselves to the sun’s harmful UV rays. However, the question often asked is, how dangerous are tanning beds? In this article, we will delve deep into the risks involved in using tanning beds and help you make an informed decision.

What Are Tanning Beds?

Tanning beds, also known as sunbeds, are devices that emit ultraviolet radiation (UV) that mimics the sun’s rays. They come in two types: upright cabins or lay-down beds. The beds use fluorescent bulbs to emit UVA and UVB radiation, which reacts with the skin to produce melanin.

How Do Tanning Beds Work?

Tanning beds work by producing UV radiation, which then penetrates the skin to stimulate melanin production. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin its color. The more melanin your skin produces, the darker your skin becomes. Tanning beds emit UVB and UVA radiation, which create different types of tans. UVB rays cause erythema, or redness, of the skin, while UVA stimulates melanin production.

How Dangerous Are Tanning Beds?

Tanning beds are a convenient way to get a tan, but they come with serious health risks. The risks of using tanning beds are:

  • Skin Cancer: The most significant danger of using tanning beds is the risk of developing skin cancer. Tanning beds expose you to UVA and UVB radiation, which damages your skin cells’ DNA, causing mutations, and eventually, skin cancer.
  • Premature Aging: Tanning beds accelerate skin aging by causing wrinkles, dry skin, and age spots. The UV rays penetrate the skin deeply, damaging elastin and collagen, two essential proteins that keep the skin firm and supple.
  • Eye Damage: Tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can cause severe eye damage, including cataracts and photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea).

What Are the Different Types of Skin Cancer Associated with Tanning Bed Use?

The types of skin cancer that are associated with tanning bed use are:

  • Melanoma: Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, and it can spread quickly to other parts of your body. Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75%.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and it usually appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on the skin.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma, but it can spread to other parts of your body. It usually appears as a red, scaly patch, or wart-like growth on the skin.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

The best way to protect yourself from the dangers of tanning beds is to avoid using them. If you want to get a tan, opt for safer alternatives like spray tans or self-tanners. If you must use tanning beds, follow these safety tips:

  • Limit your use: Limit your use of tanning beds to once a week, or less.
  • Use protective eyewear: Wear protective eyewear to prevent damage to your eyes.
  • Use sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before using tanning beds.
  • Avoid burning: Avoid getting sunburnt, as this increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

Are Tanning Beds Safer Than the Sun?

No, tanning beds are not safer than the sun. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, using a tanning bed increases your risk of developing skin cancer by 59%. It is essential to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays by using protective clothing and sunscreen when outside.

The Bottom Line

Tanning beds are convenient, but they come with serious health risks, including skin cancer, premature aging, and eye damage. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid using them. Opt for safer alternatives like spray tans or self-tanners. If you must use tanning beds, limit your use, use protective eyewear, apply sunscreen, and avoid getting sunburnt. Protecting your skin from the sun is essential to maintain healthy-looking skin.

FAQs

Q. How long does a tan from a tanning bed last?

A. A tan from a tanning bed normally lasts up to 10 days.

Q. Are tanning beds safe for pregnant women?

A. No, tanning beds are not safe for pregnant women. The UV radiation can penetrate the skin and harm the developing fetus.

Q. How many tanning bed sessions are safe?

A. There is no safe number of tanning bed sessions. Using tanning beds increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

Q. Can you still get skin cancer if you use sunscreen in a tanning bed?

A. Yes, you can still get skin cancer even if you use sunscreen in a tanning bed. Sunscreen is not foolproof and does not block out all UV radiation.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology Association. Indoor Tanning. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/indoor-tanning
  • American Cancer Society. (2021, March 24). Skin Cancer Risk Factors. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/what-is-skin-cancer.html
  • National Health Service. (2019, September 12). The Risks of Sunbeds. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/sunbeds-and-sun-safety/

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