An estimated 1 million Americans visit tanning salons every day, and the tanning industry earns over 5 billion dollars per year. Tanning devices such as sunlamps are also available for home use. Since the tanning industry is largely unregulated, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in using tanning equipment.
Long-term use of tanning beds and sunlamps is associated with premature skin aging, the development of cataracts, and nonmelanoma skin cancers. Several studies show that excessive use of tanning booths and sunlamps is associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma. The use of sunlamps is also associated with malignant melanoma of the eye.
How Artificial Tanning Devices Work
In the same way that the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation, artificial tanning devices such as sun beds and sunlamps also emit UV radiation. The only difference is that the specific type and quantity of UV radiation produced from an artificial tanning device can be controlled. Some sun beds emit UV radiation 5 times the strength of the midday summer sun.
The introduction of "fast tanning" or "10-minute" devices is highly unsafe as they emit dangerously high doses of UV radiation. Remember, your skin produces a tan when it has been damaged by ultraviolet light. The skin does not care what the source is, or whether someone labels it as "safe". If your skin has tanned, it is because damage has already occurred, and the skin is doing its best to prevent it from happening again.
Sun Bed Safety
There is good evidence that tanning, whether by sunlight or sun bed, can lead to skin cancer and skin aging. The link between skin cancer and UV radiation exposure is quite simple - the greater the exposure to UV radiation, the greater the likelihood of developing skin cancer.
Circumstances in Which It's Safe to Use Sun Beds
The only time an artificial tanning device should be used is in the medical procedure of phototherapy. This process of exposing the body to UV radiation is useful in the treatment of a number of skin conditions, including psoriasis and dermatitis. These treatments should only be conducted under medical supervision.
Regulations Governing the Use of Sun Beds
Only two states, California and Vermont prohibit the use of sunbeds for those under the age of 18. In most states there is no mandatory training for people operating tanning clinics and there is no requirement for equipment to be checked or serviced regularly. This poses a huge risk to people who continue to use tanning clinics. There is also no legislation in the majority of US states to prevent minors from using tanning salons. Click below to find out if your state has instituted these laws.
DISPELLING SOME MYTHS
"Getting a tan from a sun bed will provide good sunburn protection on vacation".
It has been estimated that a tan only offers the same protective effect as using a SPF-2 sunscreen.
"I won't get skin cancer if I get a tan but don't burn".
UVA suppresses the skin's immune system, which may play a role in the development of skin cancers. Thus, you can still develop skin cancers many years later even if you don't get obvious sunburn.
"Tanning beds give off only the safe tanning rays of UVA 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.