Indoor Tanning Increases The Risk Of Melanoma By 75% After A Single Session
When tanning in the sun simply is not possible due to cloud cover or cold weather, indoor tanning is a popular option for those who desire a bronze skin color. However, the bronze color of tanned skin is caused by melanin, which is released by the body in response to skin damage. Essentially, melanin absorbs 99.9% of UV radiation, so when the skin is damaged by UV radiation the body releases more melanin to try and stop further damage. Therefore, although people associate a tanned color of skin with health, it is actually truly associated with skin damage and the body’s attempt to prevent more skin damage.
A shocking fact is that a single indoor tanning session before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%, which is a life-threatening form of skin cancer. Indeed, one study found that out of 63 patients with melanoma, 97% of them used tanning beds.
The UV radiation released by tanning beds can penetrate both the top layers and deeper layers of skin. Just like other forms of radiation, UV radiation can be thought of as very tiny but fast moving bullets, and when they encounter the body they cause cell damage, and specifically damage to DNA and RNA which can cause mutations that lead to cancer.
Aside from increased risk of Melanoma, indoor tanning has also been shown to increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
According to a scientific study, damage and cancer risk from indoor tanning is dose dependent and increases cumulatively with each session. There is one particularly sad story of a woman who began indoor tanning at the age of 17, with sessions 4 times a week and sometimes everyday. By the age of 20 she had melanoma, and in the 4 years since she got melanoma she required 25 surgeries which left 25 scars across her body.
Besides the skin cancer risk, indoor tanning leads to several other serious issues. Indoor tanning causes the skin to lose elasticity, which leads to wrinkles and premature aging, which defeats the purpose of indoor tanning making people look ‘healthier’ in the first place. Also, UV radiation from indoor tanning weakens the immune system and the skin’s natural defenses, which is part of the reason why it causes skin cancer. Indoor tanning can also cause eye cancer, especially if goggles are not worn while using a tanning bed.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified tanning beds as carcinogenic to humans, which is the most dangerous classification that anything could receive from the IARC. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released statements on the dangers of indoor tanning beds and has increased regulations, but somehow indoor tanning beds are still legal.
In any case, it is clear that no one should ever use indoor tanning beds or sunlamps, since they increase risk of life-threatening cancer. In-fact, even natural tanning is nonsensical, and people should not expose themselves to the sun on purpose just to get a tan. It is true that the sun is a primary way to get Vitamin D, but Vitamin D can simply be obtained with vitamin pills and gummies rather than sun exposure. Sun exposure, sun burns, Vitamin D, and sunscreen will be discussed in-depth in future articles on The Cancer Herald.