The Dangers of Tanning Beds
- A dermatologist from North Texas is sharing her story of being diagnosed with skin cancer to warn others of the dangers of tanning beds.
- If you’re considering visiting a tanning bed, we highly suggest you think again. Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of skin cancer — melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%.
- When you hop into a tanning bed, you’re exposing yourself to the very same dangerous rays you expose yourself to outside, but those rays are only 6-8 inches away.
Dr. Jennifer Holman is a board-certified dermatologist with U.S. Dermatology Partners Tyler in Tyler, Texas.Read More
Why? She developed a habit of using tanning beds.
“I used to have a tanning bed habit both in college and in medical school to the point that I had two memberships because they would only let you go once a day,” Dr. Holman told KXAS-TV, an NBC television station in Fort Worth, Texas.
“One tanning session alone can increase the chances of developing melanoma by 75 percent before the age of 35,” the doctor added.
The excessive tanning caught up with her during her dermatology residency when she noticed a small spot on her leg that wasn’t there before. Over time, she said, it grew a bit, so she asked her dermatology mentor to take a look at the spot.
Dr. Holman went on to be diagnosed with early stage melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. She had the spot on her leg surgically removed.
She’s sharing her story so others know the dangers of excessive sun exposure and tanning bed usage.
“Both UV radiation from the sunshine and from the tanning bed is cancerous, it actually breaks the DNA and people think, ‘I should get a base tan so that I don’t burn.’ Well, that tan itself is your body’s response to the DNA breakage from the UV radiation and so it’s desperately trying to protect itself,” Dr. Holman explained.
“I always liken getting a base tan to smoking 10 cigarettes a day so that you can smoke 20 cigarettes a day on vacation,” she added.
The Dangers of Tanning Beds
If you’re considering visiting a tanning bed, we highly suggest you think again. Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of skin cancer — melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
When you hop into a tanning bed, you’re exposing yourself to the very same dangerous rays you expose yourself to outside, but those rays are only 6-8 inches away. And in a study recently published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, researchers suggested that banning tanning beds among minors would prevent thousands of cases of melanoma in adolescents, along with millions of dollars in health care costs.
So, even if the temptation of achieving a nice “glow” seems irresistible, you should note that health experts warn against using tanning beds.
Dr. Anna Pavlick, an oncologist specializing in skin cancer at Weill Cornell, explained to SurvivorNet that tanning beds increase your chances of skin cancer “exponentially.”
“We know there is a direct correlation with (melanoma) patients who go to indoor tanning salons,” Dr. Pavlick said, noting that the exposure “is about 6 inches from your body.”
The sun is millions of miles away when you’re on a beach, “so you have to think of the intensity that you’re exposing your skin to when you go to a tanning salon,” she added.
How to Protect Your Skin From Skin Cancer
The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that more than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it the most common cancer in the U.S.
Now is the time of year when the weather starts to warm up and people begin to shop for bathing suits in preparation for summer; it’s important to remember to protect your skin from skin cancer this summer.
Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, previously told SurvivorNet about the top five things you can do to avoid skin cancer:
- Avoid sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the tops of our heads, the tops of our ears and the delicate area around the eye
- Wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen and make sure to reapply every two hours or after excessive sweating or swimming
- Have yearly skin checks (with a professional) because it is difficult to evaluate areas all over the body
- Avoid tanning beds; there are no “good” tanning beds, and they can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer
Dr. Cecilia Larocca, a dermatologist at the Cutaneous (Skin) Cancer Treatment Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass., previously told SurvivorNet that something as simple as putting sunscreen on can reduce your chances of getting skin cancer, specially melanoma, by up to 50%.
“When it comes to squamous cell, basal cell and melanoma, even some rare cancers like Merkel cell carcinoma, protecting ourselves from the sun can reduce that risk,” she said. “I love telling my melanoma patients when they come in that that’s one thing they can really take control over when they come home.”
“When it comes to melanoma, if you use sunscreen, there was this great study that came out of Australia that if patients used sunscreen consistently over a period of ten years, they were actually able to reduce their risk for melanoma by 50 percent,” she added.
But no matter how vigilant you are about decreasing your risk for skin cancer, it’s important to still prioritize routine check-ups with your dermatologist, and always be on the lookout for any skin changes in between visits.