By Bayan Raji, Staff Writer
Continuing their quests for that bronze "summer" look into the fall and winter, many people walk away from the beaches and into indoor tanning salons when sweater weather rolls around.
While tanning beds may seem like a no-risk alternative to the sun, they carry many similar dangers.
UV rays are harmful
Tanning beds do their job with ultraviolet (UV) radiation. While these rays may not cause sunburn, they can thin the skin and make it less able to heal. This may increase previous skin damage caused by the sun.
"Tanning beds are dangerous," says Carol Drucker, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at M. D. Anderson. "Advertising may make them seem like a safe alternative to tanning, but they're not."
Beds increase cancer risk
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), and melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. More than 59,000 people in this country are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and 7,000 people die because of it.
The ACS found women who use tanning beds more than once a month are:
• 55% more likely to develop malignant melanoma
• 75% more likely to develop melanoma if they use tanning beds before age 35
Occasional use of tanning beds almost tripled the risk of developing melanoma.
Don't buy vitamin D claims
Some tanning salons try to counteract negative views of tanning beds by saying the UV rays can help increase the body's production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and a healthy immune system.
"While it may be true that you get vitamin D from the UV rays in tanning beds, the danger far outweighs the positive aspects," Drucker says. "It's preferable not to get your vitamin D through a carcinogen. You can get vitamin D from much safer sources, including fortified milk, orange juice or cereals, or oral supplements."
Self-tanning products can give you the same look, without the negative effects. But, remember, most of them do not include sun protection. Be sure to wear sunscreen when you are outside.
M. D. Anderson resources:
Department of Dermatology
Tanning Beds Cause Serious Cancer Risk, Agency Says (American Cancer Society)
How Do I Protect Myself from UV? (American Cancer Society)
Can Melanoma Be Prevented?(American Cancer Society)
Melanoma (National Cancer Institute)
Tanning Beds May Seem Safe, But They're Not
By Bayan Raji, Staff Writer
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