Using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan is called “indoor tanning.” Indoor tanning has been linked with skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), squamous cell carcinoma, and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma).
While many people think that indoor tanning is less harmful than the UV rays from the sun, indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59% higher risk of melanoma. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of wrinkles and eye damage, and changes skin texture.
Another common myth is that indoor tanning will help to build a base tan, therefore, decreasing one’s risk of initial burning with sun exposure. However, indoor tanning and tanning outside are both dangerous. Although tanning beds operate on a timer, the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can vary based on the age and type of light bulbs. You can still get a burn from tanning indoors, and even a tan indicates damage to your skin. Tanning beds cause about 1,800 injuries requiring visits to the emergency room every year.
A tan is a response to injury: skin cells respond to damage from UV rays by producing more pigment. The best way to protect your skin from the sun is by using these tips for skin cancer prevention.these tips for skin cancer prevention.
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
*Source: Adapted from CDC, Is Indoor Tanning Safe, 2014.