The season has only just changed and already we are on the tail end of another warm summer. It feels like only yesterday that we were reminding ourselves to wear sunscreen, cover up, put on a hat, and track those spots. As the trees start to shed their leaves, we too will begin to shed our tanned skins and summer-kissed faces. Many will find themselves drawn to the forever-summer promises of a tanning bed. This habit is more dangerous than many understand.
Skin cancer, the most common of all cancers in the U.S., affects one-in five Americans. Staying far away from ultraviolet radiation is the best and most effective way to reduce the risk of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, new research tells us that rates of melanoma, the deadliest forms of skin cancer, have increased 800% among women 18-39 from 1970 to 2009. During this same time, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma rates have also dramatically spiked. This rise in UV exposure is said to predominantly affect Caucasian girls and young women. Make no mistake, however, no one is immune.
Skin Cancer Caused by Tanning Beds
One of the key contributors to skin cancer is continued use of indoor tanning devices. Dermatologist M. Laurin Council, MD, FAAD, FACMS attributes this partly to the need for more education. “Because there’s a delay between UV exposure and when skin cancer appears, most women don’t think it will happen to them,” she says. The fact is, this continued use of tanning devices may cause more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year, according to a study by Dr. Mackenzie Wehner.
The truth is many people simply don’t realize just how unsafe tanning beds, lamps, and booths are. Just how unsafe are they? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%). Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires warning labels on all indoor tanning devices. It’s that serious.
Tanning Ages Your Skin
While the main concern with tanning devices is skin cancer, people also put themselves at risk for having skin that ages more quickly. Wrinkles, age spots, loss of skin firmness, and more noticeable stretch marks are all things you can look forward to, not to mention leathery skin. And don’t believe the myth, you won’t get any Vitamin D from spending a minute in a tanning bed.
Stay Away from Tanning Beds and Stay Safe
While some would argue you should love your skin just the way it is, others might just love it more with a golden hue. If you really insist on a year-round tan, try a self-tanner. If you apply it the right way, you’ll avoid streaks and splotches, and most importantly, skin damage. Remember: take care of your skin. It’s the only one you’ve got.