Tanning and Burning

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is an invisible form of light and energy given off primarily by the sun. Tanning devices are another form of UV radiation. Frequent and intense exposure to UV radiation is a major risk factor for melanoma.

Periodic exposure to intense sunlight that results in a sunburn seems to be more directly linked to the development of melanoma than having continued daily sun exposure. This may mean that people who go on sunny vacations or participate in outdoor recreational activities should be especially careful in the sun.

As well, several studies show that frequent use of tanning booths and sunlamps is associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma.

If you have the following characteristics or conditions, you may be more affected by the damaging rays of UV radiation and at a higher risk of developing melanoma.

  • Fair skin
  • Red or blond hair
  • Blue eyes
  • Poor tanning ability or an inability to tan
  • Freckling easily
  • A history of one or more severe, blistering sunburns before the age of 18
  • The use of tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps for medical or cosmetic purposes
  • Numerous actinic keratoses, flat, pink, scaly spots that grow on sun-damaged skin of older, fair-skinned people
  • Lentigines, flat, brown, sometimes large spots found most often on the face, arms, chest, back, and backs of the hands, and associated with aging or sun-damaged skin

Less-common conditions that can put you at higher risk:

  • Taking psoralen and UVA (PUVA) therapy for psoriasis, particularly if you have received 250 treatments or more.
  • Xeroderma pigmentosum-a rare, inherited condition wherein the cellular machinery that constantly scans our DNA for damage and repairs it is broken. People with this condition cannot repair the daily changes that happen to their DNA. They are at enormously higher risk for developing skin cancer and cannot tolerate even small amounts of UV light.

Related Content

Dangers of Outdoor Tanning

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Dangers of Indoor Tanning

Learn more about the dangers of indoor tanning

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