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Dangers of Tanning and Burning

It is not true that you have to burn in order to tan. In fact, trying to "tan through the burn" is a dangerous practice that only causes more skin damage. Tanning and burning are both forms of skin damage caused by overexposure to UV radiation.

 

  • A tan occurs only after so much damage to one's skin cells has occurred that the damaged skin tries to protect itself by sending signals to the melanocytes to produce more melanin, the pigment that darkens your skin. As the melanocytes produce protective melanin, the surrounding keratinocytes (skin cells) take it up and use it to try and shield their DNA. The more melanin that is produced, the darker the skin becomes. A tan then, is objective evidence that damage has already happened, and the body is expending energy to prevent such damage from happening again.

  • Sunburn occurs when your skin cannot produce melanin quickly enough to prevent UV rays from injuring the skin's surface and the deeper blood vessels. Damage to blood vessels causes inflammation and swelling (which turns the skin red) as well as pain. Severe sunburns can cause enough inflammation that people become nauseated and sick for a time. Because the inflammatory process is not instantaneous, it can take up to 48 hours to see the full effect of sunburn.

  • An estimated one million Americans visit tanning salons every day. Tanning devices such as sun lamps are also available for home use. Since the tanning industry is largely unregulated it is important to be aware of the risk involved in using tanning equipment.

  • One misconception promoted by the indoor tanning industry is that tanning beds give off only the "safe, tanning rays", of UV radiation. There is no such thing as safe UV radiation. In fact, exposure to the highly concentrated UV rays of tanning beds and sunlamps may be even more dangerous than exposure to the sun. Long term use of tanning beds and sunlamps, is associated with premature skin aging, the development of cataracts, and non-melanoma skin cancers. Several studies show that excessive use of tanning beds and sunlamps is associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma. The use of sunlamps is also associated with malignant melanoma of the eye.

 

For more information on indoor tanning click here.



IMPORTANT!

There is no such thing as a healthy tan.

  • Some people may mistakenly believe a tan is a sign of good health and vitality.

  • There is no evidence that "laying a foundation" of a tan before the summer or prior to a sunny vacation will prevent sunburns or skin cancer.