Why Tanning Beds Cause Skin Cancer

There is a fascination for achieving the perfect tan and a golden glow. However, did you know that tanning beds use harmful cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) light, just like the radiation from the sun? If you use tanning beds regularly, damage from the UV light can build over time and eventually lead to skin cancer.

Risk of Using Tanning Beds

While most people know about the harmful effects of the sun on your skin, not many know that indoor tanning is worse on your skin. The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified ultraviolet light emitted from tanning beds as carcinogenic to humans. Tanning beds have been placed in the same category of carcinogens as radium and plutonium! Moreover, using tanning beds can triple your chances of developing skin cancer.

Tanning can also be an addictive habit. This is likely because tanning releases endorphins – chemicals that can relieve pain and produce a feeling of happiness. In fact, some people continue to visit tanning studios even after a skin cancer diagnosis.

Remember that making lifestyle changes and protecting your skin are conscious decisions you must make if you want to minimize your risk of skin cancer.

UV Rays Can Cause Skin Cancer

When UV rays from the sun or tanning beds penetrate the lower layers of your skin, it prompts the skin cells to create a brown pigment called melanin, which darkens the skin to protect it from further sun damage. This darkening is a by-product of the protective process and results in your skin being tanned.

While you may enjoy the tan and its lovely glow, it also has more unfortunate consequences. Sustained exposure to intense UV rays can change the DNA in your skin cells and result in cancerous growths.

Each time you get a tan, your risk of developing skin cancer increases. Furthermore, tanning can put you at high risk for the most dangerous of skin cancers, melanoma.

Studies show that exposure to UV radiation is associated with approximately 65% of melanoma cases and 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

It’s clear that UV exposure is dangerous, whether it is from the sun or tanning beds.

Myth-busting Tanning Beds

People often think that tanning indoors is safer than staying out in the sun. Sadly, this is a false idea usually promoted by tanning studios.

Evidence suggests that indoor tanning can be more dangerous than tanning caused by the sun. This is because indoor tanning exposes your skin to higher levels of UVA light than natural sunlight, which penetrates the skin deeper.

While any type of UV exposure is harmful to your skin, tanning beds tend to pose a much higher risk for the onset of skin cancer.

Tanning is Dangerous at Any Age

Skin cancer may seem like a disease that only affects older people, but the reality is that it affects many young people as well.

Melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer seen among people aged 25 to 29 and is also common in the 15 to 29 age group. Today, melanoma is the leading cause of cancer-related death in women aged 25 to 30.

According to the IARC, using tanning beds before the age of 30 increases your risk of melanoma by 75%. And other studies suggest that women who use tanning beds even once are six times more likely to develop melanoma in their 20s than women who have never used a tanning bed. Because of the serious risks associated with indoor tanning, several states in the US have banned its use for minors.

Ask yourself this: is your tan worth getting skin cancer over? We believe the answer is quite simple.

How to Get the Tanned Look

If you still crave that tanned look, the only truly safe way to sport a golden glow is with a self-tanning product. The active ingredient in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is FDA approved since it is not harmful to the body.

The staff at Schweiger Dermatology Group loves Vita Liberata self-tanning products, which contain good for your skin ingredients, such as organic sunflower seed and lactic acid.


Are you worried about your use of tanning beds?

Schedule a consultation with one of our dermatology providers for a comprehensive skin examination or skin cancer screening today! We can put your mind at ease and give you information on good prevention habits to maximize your chance of living a healthy, cancer-free life.

Call Schweiger Dermatology Group at (844) DERM-DOC to schedule a consultation today. To find a location near you, check out our location pages.

About Schweiger Dermatology Group

Schweiger Dermatology Group was founded to help make excellent dermatology care accessible throughout the Northeast. In 2010, Dr. Eric Schweiger started the practice with a single location in Midtown Manhattan. When he saw the need for high-quality dermatology care that did not require weeks or months of waiting to see a qualified provider, his vision of a multi-location practice was born.

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