That scary title brought to you by a new study that was performed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization, which shows that people who begin using tanning beds regularly before age 30 increase their risk of developing skin cancer by 75%.  The group has said that this makes regular tanning bed use as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) as smoking cigarettes, and as dangerous as arsenic. (You can read the entire article here, if you have log-in credentials).

Photo: Borba.com

Photo: Borba.com

The interesting part about these statistics is that women currently have a far lower chance of developing skin cancer than men do, for both melanomas and the most common nonmelanoma carcinomas. Still, it seems that we’re just aching to catch up, because the predominant users of tanning beds are young women. According to a large study of American teenagers, girls are far more likely to think it was worth getting burned to get a tan, to believe that some, most, or all their friends tanned, and to put a high value on tanned skin. It seems quite obvious that this is an issue that starts far before a teenage girl gets in the tanning bed; it involves a clear societal value or beauty ideal being placed above health.  These seem all to common among women today, from unhealthy dieting to risking surgery and back problems simply to have larger breasts.

Now that we know the risks, and we understand that it is really our young women who are in the most danger, what should we do at a personal or political level? Already, several states have enacted laws that require parental permission for teens to use tanning beds, require a doctor’s note, or simply ban tanning by persons under a certain age altogether. What do you think? Knowing the risks, will you still use a tanning bed? Do you think that adults should be unfettered by the government in this risky practice, even as we protect our nation’s teenagers?

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Comments

I admit to tanning bed abuse as well and agree with Alison in that I know it is bad, but did it anyway. However, after having several suspicious moles removed from my back and a series of lectures from my dermologist, I have resorted to the lotions and spray tans. Nothing looks as good as a real suntan, but some of the products come close. I'm trying a new lotion out for the month of August...

Guilty! My mother warned me from a very young age about skin cancer and tanning both in natural sunlight and in a tanning bed. Both her and my father have had skin cancer. Yet, I am guilty of using tanning beds. I used to go 1-2 times a week during fall of my junior year in college. I guess I was just willing to take the risk. I haven't been since, but I admit it is still tempting...

I think the appeal of tanning beds might be similar to the appeal of smoking - you know it's bad for you, but you do it anyway. I'm glad there are more and more "fake bake" options popping up on the market, but I don't think enough people take advantage. (I realize some of them make you look a little too orange...) I've never really understood the lure of tanning because my family's standards of "beauty" always involved pale skin and thus always wore my sunscreen!

At least smoking is actually addictive, so people with that particular vice have *some* excuse. Then again, I know women who started smoking in order to lose weight, which is really just as dumb as tanning. Why do we do this to ourselves?? It's so frustrating, really. My youngest sister loves to tan and jokes that she wants to get as dark as my nephew, who is half African American! She says the boys like tans on girls. I'd just love for her to get the confidence to say that she isn't willing to risk her health for what the boys might like.

This is just one of those things I don't get. I've never been to a tanning bed, and I doubt I ever will. I won't get too high and mighty though, because I don't always wear sunscreen when I'm out in the actual sun.

What about the current debate regarding usage of sunscreen and our lack of Vitamin D? I have read that because we have become more informed about the risks of skin cancer that we have gone crazy with sunscreen and now almost everyone should be taking a Vitamin D supplement. However, the sun is the best source. So, does anyone know how much sun exposure is necessary to get enough Vitamin D without frying yourself and/or good supplements that are available?

That's a great question. That's always how I justified my sunscreen-free time in the sun: that I needed the vitamin D and the endorphins/mood elevating effects of the sun.

Here's a great article: http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/living-well-usn/2008/06/23/time...

They say just a few minutes without sunscreen (in a tank top and shorts a.k.a. with lots of exposed skin) in the midday sun for fair-skinned people, 15-20 minutes for naturally tanned skin, and possibly in the 25-30 minute range for dark-skinned individuals is enough to make all the vitamin D you need each day.

Apparently the Vitamin D is linked to lowered risk of heart disease. It's a balancing act between heart disease and skin cancer :P.

Since I don't burn easily at all, I try to eat lunch outside every so often, and hope for the best!

UV radiation destroys collagen in the skin, which is the main component of skin. Even if someone has spent too much time in the sun, proper diet and treatment can help the body recover lost collagen and produce more. Antioxidants and omega fatty acids along with a healthy intake of antioxidants can help someone heal their skin after too much sun exposure.

I honestly don't understand some people's preocupation with being tanned. Just look in history and you will find that the people who lived then even then knew how dangerous it was for us to lie in the sun, and these days, tanning beds for ages. One only needs a few minutes a day to get the vitamin D you need, after that, stay out of the sun if you don't want to court danger.

I think the best solution would be to just not allow a person under 18 to use a tanning bed. Once they are 18 they should know the dangers, but since it's a free country they should be allowed to use them even though they know they are dangerous if they choose.

Well I guess the decision should rely on the individuals ourselves. By publicly reporting the danger of skin cancer and what can cause it, The Government already shown their responsibility to protect their people. They also banning teenagers from tanning bed, because they know that at this stage of age people can't clearly thinking between risk and benefit of what they doing. Government didn't banned adult from tanning bed practice, because at this stage of age people expected should be able make decision on their own.

My MOM has been using a tanning bed for about 20 years now and I hate to say it but she actually looks more like my Granny now! She has all rights to have a panic attack just by looking in the mirror. When she is around her friends I can see the panic in her eyes when comparing how much she has aged compared to them. Can we say PANIC ATTACK is a real thing to her now. BTW my MoM is only 52 and she looks 82!!!

The golden rule of tanning is NEVER burn. Melanoma is a result of constant burning.

But,all the hype about keeping out of the sun is causing a deficiency of vitamin D in people.

We actually need vitamin D in order for the body to use calcium (amoungst other things).

The safest way to obtain vitamin D is from the sun (provided you dont burn) and food NOT from tablets as it is possible to do more harm to your health than good.

My twin sister is big on tanning beds and you can tell a difference between her skin and mine. I have very few wrinkles or noticeable sun damaged skin compared to her at age forty. Can definitely tell she has panic attacks when we compare each other.

very nice article and looking forward to read more of your posting. thanks a lot

Sad to hear teenagers put their appearance over long term health and that fitting into the crowd is of more significance these days. Considering my daughter was born a few days ago, I’ll have a lot self-esteem instilled in her over the years so hopefully one day she can follow her own heart and not the crowd. On another note, I have always wondered about all the commuters going into work? They sit in their car for a daily 45min - 1 hour trek to work baking in the sun. Are there a large number of cases where just one side of the face was affected with cancer? I tinted the windows of my cars so hopefully it does the trick.

Just one thing I would like to point out. Tanning is just fine as long as it is done in moderation.

There is so much interesting and conflicting research about the sun and its harmful UV rays. What I am led to understand is that the sun beds have UVB rays only. These are the ones that cause sunburn so you need to manage how much exposure you get. If you manage your time properly however, you can raise the melatonin levels in your skin, which is what produces the tan effect in the skin, and which is the body's natural protection reaction to the sun's rays.
Beyond all this, the sun has wonderful health benefits for us all, especially the Vitamin D benefits! The body will use UVB rays to create Vit D. UVA rays on the other hand, destroys VIT D and it is these rays that will penetrate the glass windows at work or of your car or train. If you are going to wear sunscreen, better make sure it provides protection for both UVA and UVB, but try and make sure the UVA level is certified high.

Regarding a comment posted above, bodybuilders that know what they are doing don't look like carrots. Those who look like carrots use tanning creams in excess, mainly because they are amateurs. Most bodybuilders use spray tanning the day before a show simply because the lights on stage are so bright, if they weren't very dark their muscle detail wouldn't show as good. :o)

i just don't get it why some people think, that they look better if they are tanned like a bodybuilder! they look like carrots! ...don't they?
even if they forget their health (what is bad enough), what do their families say about this "hobby"?

What about the current issue with people having vitamin D deficiency because they are scared of the sun. Most of the cancer causing exposure is when you get sun burnt and peel. Normal sun exposure is really not that bad.

"people who begin using tanning beds regularly before age 30 increase their risk of developing skin cancer by 75%" It is very dangerous issue i hope people get awareness and stop using tanning, I my self strongly disregard tanning and will be totally agreed to ban them.

I have always been a lover of the sun and killed my skin during many summers in Wis, before sunscreen. As a teenager I suffered from acne and always felt better / confident when my face was tanned and that was more important to me - perhaps the same as the young ladies who are not concerned about wrinkles in the future. I guess vanity wins! Now that I am in my 50's I always wear suncreen and have found using an airbrush for my makeup can produce a tan and glow. I was never a proponent of tanning beds but am a true lover of a light tan.

I was never a fan of tanning but this is really scary. I mean, we live in a world of pollutants (in the food, in the air, you name it...) so why would we invoke that health demon by tanning ourselves to death? Such approprate title...

Thanks for sharing.

Isn't tanning the natural way dangerous,too? It has been proven that sun bathing, which is the only way to get a tan, is the leading cause of skin cancer in many countries. Good thing, we do not have that problem here in Asia. Quite the contrary, most Asian women apply lotions or even take in medication to get fairer skin. In fact, this has been featured in CNN and most Caucasians do not understand why we would want to be whiter. Maybe it is the same reason why Asians do not understand why Caucasians want to be darker :-)

The only way we will be able to stop the use of tanning beds is to ban them. I used them when I was younger despite being warned against them - boy do I regret it now. It's time to say no to them and protect our youngsters.

Sue made an interesting comment above about the UVA rays destroying vitamin D and being the rays that come through windows that I wasn't aware of. Since tanning beds use UVB rays which create vitamin D I wonder if using tanning beds once in awhile (during the winter say) would be benificial.

As far as tanning and sunscreens go I'd like to also mention that a big contributor to cancer is the sunscreen itself as they are loaded with toxins like parabins that are also known to cause cancer as well.

As we baby-boomers enter the elderly years, more and more of us find ourselves ravaged by skin cancer and other skin ailments that are a function of poor skin care years earlier. Whether it be extreme sun worship or tanning booths, the youth of the 1960's and '70's are testaments to the risks explained in this post. I encourage the youth of today to heed this warning. You are not invulnerable and someday you, too, will face the perils of not taking good care of yourself when it was in your power to do so.

Best Regards,

William

Yes, adults should be unfettered by the government to get tans if we so choose. But at the same time, government can play a major role in reporting the dangers of tanning beds because the companies profiting from our vanity would likely never to do so.

Banning the use of tanning beds (for any age group) seem like just another chip off of out already shrinking personal freedom.

However, requiring parental permission seems reasonable. If children are allowed to play sports with permission, (which carries an element of risk) then why not allow tanning with permission?

Ultimately the decision and the responsibility should fall to the parents.

I think there is so much pressure put on these younger girls to keep up with the latest in being hot and and tan that peer pressure and the need to look like celebrities influences them to tan too much. Some natural sunshine is really good to keep vitamin d levels up but over exposure and tanning beds is starting to adversely impact these young ladies. I wish there was a good solution but I don't think politicians are the answer.

I was just looking back at a scrapbook I made many years ago from a trip I took to Hawaii. I remember being so proud of my tan at the time. Now I know better!

Thanks for posting this and reminding me of the dangers of tanning, whether indoors or out!

Thank you for this helpful topic! I have a friend who is addicted to tanning! I have heard of this issue before, and I warned her to take it slow when doing this. I will let her in on this article so she would be aware that it is not always how you look that matters! Thanks once again!

Like some many people above said, everybody knows tanning beds are bad for your healthy but you do it anyways. why? who knows? People drink, smoke, eat badly, use drugs. There is no reason to treat their bodies badly but somehow they just do it. Some people even consider tanning beds as a hobby. Well, I particularly never tried and don't feel like doing it but I can't judge anyone.

No amount of education will scare away teenagers and college kids from tanning beds unless the FTC bans them. There is always an excuse for why "this won't happen to me"

Excellent article you got there.You did a marvelous job covering this topic. I love reading blogs like because it keeps me informed and happy. Thank you for this great post and making my day bright.

based on my simple understanding by just watching the bed, you will judge right away that it is carcegonic since the bed uses ultraviolet lights as replacement for sun rays and we know that ultra violet can damage cells, did you know that ultraviolet rays can kill bacterias, water filtration system reverse osomosis have ultraviolet chambers where the water pass to kill the pathogens that are presents in the water

At least smoking is actually addictive, so people with that particular vice have *some* excuse. Then again, I know women who started smoking in order to lose weight, which is really just as dumb as tanning. Why do we do this to ourselves?? It’s so frustrating, really. My youngest sister loves to tan and jokes that she wants to get as dark as my nephew, who is half African American! She says the boys like tans on girls. I’d just love for her to get the confidence to say that she isn’t willing to risk her health for what the boys might like.

This is just one of those things I don’t get. I’ve never been to a tanning bed, and I doubt I ever will. I won’t get too high and mighty though, because I don’t always wear sunscreen when I’m out in the actual sun.

After reading many websites and blogs with this
type of information this site was a welcome from the rest.
All the information is clearly laid out and explained.
Thanks for a great read,i'll pass this onto other people i know who'll find it beneficial.

It seems that pale skin is making a long overdue
comeback. I envy today's young women with the wealth of information via the internet and other sources about the dangers of tanning and too much sun exposure. I was born in 1961 and tanning was promoted and encouraged up right through the 80's. People didn't use SPF 30 really until the 1990's and the sunscreens then were not nearly as effective as the ones available today. No one used zinc except the lifeguards at the beach used it on their noses. It does seem that with movie stars like Nicole Kidman and others who are clearly stunning without tans, in their own beautiful natural skin tone, that young women will think twice about tanning their skin either in the sun or a tanning bed.

I can say without reservation that tanning my skin in the sun is THE BIGGEST regret of my life so far. I deeply regret the sun damage that became apparent in my late 40's and if I could do it all over again, I would be MUCH more careful.

I heard somewhere that coffee helps prevent skin cancer. Does anyone know it that's true? Something about it making your cells move faster or something. Any feedback would be appreciated. Great post.

For some reason, many feel that tanning booths are safe when they are not. Thanks for bringing more awareness to this issue.

Sun beds in the UK are becoming a sore point as many teenagers have gone on them for to long and caused burning.

I really think that tanning salons should be closed down, they are so unhealthy. It is such a shame that so many youngsters use them for aesthetic purposes. Natural sunlight is great for our bodies, more people should be getting out and enjoying it and not lying between fluorescent tubes!

A bit of a catch 22 situation. As someone who has used a tanning bed in the past the more you use the better you feel. It is important to explain the damage caused by the sun not only on sunbeds to teenagers and hope that they will take this on board. It would be lovely if we could all accept that not being tanned is acceptable.

I don't understand why should people want to get tanned. Appreciating what we have is a better approach. rather than changing what God has given us. Be thankful guys.:)We are perfect the way we are. :D

We have become more informed about the risks of skin cancer that we have gone crazy with sunscreen and now almost everyone should be taking a Vitamin D supplement.
2000iu per day will cover you.

These tanning beds are sooo dangerous. A 26 year old women died from skin cancer as she used tanning beds from the age of 18 and very regularly. They have an extra UVA which is worse than the sun. Stay away from tanning beds go for the all natural spray tan!

I honestly don’t understand some people’s preoccupation with being tanned. Just look in history and you will find that the people who lived then knew how dangerous it was for us to lie in the sun, and these days, tanning beds for ages. One only needs a few minutes a day to get the vitamin D you need, after that, stay out of the sun if you don’t want to court danger.

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