Should you be worried about UV radiation from tanning beds causing skin cancer? Is the bronze worth the risk?
Artificial tanning is a big business. There are about thirty million visits to tanning salons every year. It is an easy way to get what some people consider a healthy glow, rather than going to the trouble of exposing your body to the sun which can be inconsistent and def harmful if you overexpose yourself.
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself how bad are tanning beds, really? Let’s find out if you should risk the perils in getting that glow or not.
What is a Tanning Bed?
A tanning bed or a sunbed is an innovatively designed machine that emits UV radiation to produce a beautiful tan. Different tanning beds are put together differently. Stimulant sunbeds are engineered to deliver higher outputs of UVB rays. Browning tanning beds are designed to produce higher outputs of UVA rays.
What makes a sunbed do what they do are the tanning lamps, which are responsible for emitting the UV spectrum (UVB and UVA). Each lamp comes equipped with a ballast, which regulates the amount of output inside the sunbed.
What is UV Radiation?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum of energy emitted from the sun. The wavelength of UV light extends from ten to four hundred nanometers, which is just below the visible spectrum (four to seven hundred nanometers).
The ozone layer of the earth blocks short-wavelength ultraviolet rays. So, greater than ninety percent of the ultraviolet rays that reach the surface of the earth are UVA (three hundred and fifteen to four hundred nanometers), and a smaller percentage is UVB (two hundred and ninety to three hundred and fifteen nanometers). A smaller percentage of higher energy UVB is responsible for serious sunburns. UVB is said to stimulate and increase pigment production in your skin that is responsible for tanning.
UVA, on the other hand, penetrates deeper into the skin and does not cause serious sunburns. But it can cause an increase in pigment production as well as tanning after prolonged exposure. Tanning beds emit high levels of UV radiation. So, you see why people are wary about this unique technology.
Sun vs Tanning Beds – Which is Worse?
All ultraviolet light is considered to be a carcinogen that will increase your risk of skin cancer. But sunbeds have an increased rate of skin cancer compared to regular sun tanning. The reason for that is twofold. The sun has a balance across all the ultraviolet spectrums, while sunbeds are mainly UVA.
As mentioned earlier, UVA penetrates your skin more deeply, causing more DNA damage that may lead to skin cancer. Additionally, some tanning lamps are high-pressure by design, emitting twelve times more radiation compared to natural sunlight. The most common forms of skin cancer associated with sunbeds are melanoma and non-melanoma.
Non-Melanoma and Melanoma Skin Cancer
Non-melanoma is very common among tanning bed users. According to research, there are about four hundred and fifty thousand cases of non-melanoma due to indoor tanning every year.
Melanoma cases, on the other hand, can amount up to ten thousand every year and it is this condition that is the deadlier. People who start indoor tanning before the age of thirty-five have a higher probability of contracting melanoma (about seventy-five percent higher) compared to regular people who get a natural tan from the sun when hanging out at the beach or lake.
What is Non-Melanoma?
If you are exposed to high-pressure tanning repeatedly, the beneficial effects of the artificial UV spectrum are eclipsed by bad ones. One of the alarming effects is the development of non-melanoma skin cancer. The ability of UVA to penetrate deeper into the skin layers should be a worrying effect. Once in the skin, UVA, as well as UVB rays, don’t only stimulate melanin production (that is visible on the skin as a tan), they can also damage collagen fibers. This is likely to cause the aggregation of proteins in the skin.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Skin irritation visible as sunburn
- Thickening of the skin
- Formation of wrinkles and loss of elasticity
- An itchy growth area
- Scaly and raised red patches
- Yellow or pale white flat parts of the skin that resemble scars
Also, UVB and UVA light can trigger the creation of reactive oxygen species, which can destroy lipids, proteins, and other cell constituents.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer that occurs from your cells in your skin referred to as melanocytes. The condition manifests itself due to excessive sun exposure as well as prolonged use of indoor tanning beds. What you need to look for is a spot on your skin that is changing. You should also be looking for something that is bleeding or growing.
According to research, this condition accounts for about four percent of the total diagnosed cases of melanoma. This condition can manifest in sun or artificially tanned areas. But they can easily occur in other parts of your body. It can manifest in your soles, palms, and nails. If there is a history of melanoma in your family, you should avoid all types of tanning altogether to reduce your risk of getting melanoma.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
- A sore that refuses to heal
- Bleeding, oozing, or scaling mole surface
- Pain, tenderness, or itchy sensation
- Multiple shades and tan variations
If you have been relentlessly tanning your body all year round, you should have your skin checked by a specialist for early signs of melanoma. If you have a newly appearing mole that doesn’t look like the rest of the moles, it is extremely vital to see a specialist. Melanoma that occurs on your skin surface is usually easy to remove. But the one with depth is likely to spread or metastasize.
According to this information, tanning beds are bad news. They may expose you to the horrors of skin cancer at some point in your life.
WHO, FDA, and Other Organizations on Tanning Beds
In the year 2015, WHO (World Health Organization) suggested that people who are less than eighteen years old should not use tanning beds. FDA acknowledges that artificial UV emission poses serious health risks, including skin cancer.
Several countries and states already have laws against sunbeds use for minors because it is extremely dangerous. Tanning beds are labeled by the WHO as a carcinogen. The warning labels are now found on tanning beds. This, however, doesn’t necessarily say that the warning labels will stop people from buying and using tanning beds. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently moved these machines into the highest category of cancer risk.
The American Cancer Society has estimated that about sixty-eight thousand new cases of skin cancer (melanoma) occurred in the United States in 2009. According to the organization, about one out of eight cases were fatal.
Dermatologists On Tanning Beds
Most dermatologists are against the use of tanning beds and other tanning equipment on the market. According to most dermatologists, the risk of tanning sunbeds is very clear. People who go to tanning salons have a much higher risk of getting skin cancer. They say artificial tanning has become a very serious problem among women in search of beauty. Women need to acknowledge that tanning beds are a danger to their health.
Dermatologists discourage women from considering a base tan as a great way to protect their skin. This is so because a base tan protects the skin marginally. It does so not because of the tan, but because the outer layer of the skin gets thicker. So, people need to understand that tanning beds cause an injury to the skin and the response to the injury is for the skin to get thicker.
Most dermatologists don’t believe that it is necessary or safe for a person to consider sunbeds as a great vitamin D source. You can easily get vitamin D through your diet as well as through vitamin D supplements. They say there is no reason to use a device that is classified as a carcinogen by WHO to get vitamin D.
Doctors believe that sunbeds may be harboring bacteria and viruses in addition to increased risk of skin cancer. Several dermatologists would suggest to their patients that if they want a tan then they should get it in form of a sunless self-tanner or get a spray tan.
A sunless tanner when applied is simply a stain that is hypoallergenic and non-irritating. Sunless tanning is an ideal way to get some color without being exposed to the harmful ultraviolet rays of tanning beds or the sun. Sunless tanning is FDA cleared.
But you are strongly advised not to apply sunless tanning products directly to your eyes, nose, or lips. You should carefully follow all the instructions provided by the manufacturer when using sunless tanning products at home.
You need this information because you have been wondering how bad tanning beds are. The choice to darken one’s skin by using tanning beds has gained increased popularity as well as social acceptance in recent years. Nowadays there are claims that indoor tanning provides health benefits. The increase in the intentional use of tanning beds has become a public health issue due to increased risks of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer. Dermatologists have been diagnosing more cases related to the use of tanning beds.
To understand why tanning beds have been associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, you must understand how ultraviolet rays tans the skin. Whenever you expose your skin to a sunbed, tanning is your skin’s response to UV exposure. Ultraviolet light produces DNA damage that indirectly and directly stimulates tanning. The continued damage of DNA and collagen is likely to expose your skin to skin cancer. There is also an increasing concern that continued exposure to artificial ultraviolet radiation accelerates the aging process.
Several myths surround the use of tanning beds like indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning, tanning beds emit safer UV rays compared to sunlight, a base tan helps protect your skin, and tanning beds are a good source of vitamin D. All these claims are considered to be misleading. According to the World Health Organization, sunbeds are carcinogens and they should be avoided. Other organizations like the FDA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer consider sunbeds to be a high risk of skin cancer.
According to most dermatologists, if you must tan, then use sunless self-tanners which don’t use ultraviolet radiation.
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