Teaching Teens About Skin Health and Tanning Beds - The Dermatology Review
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Teaching Teens About Skin Health and Tanning Beds

Lots of people like to use tanning beds, and researchers estimate that about one in every three Caucasian high school girls use tanning beds. Although it’s common for people to think that it’s safer to tan indoors in a tanning bed, that isn’t true. Both natural and artificial ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer.

Tanning Beds and Skin Cancer

Tanning beds emit two types of ultraviolet rays that can deepen the pigmentation in skin. Both of these types of UV rays can damage the skin.

  • UVB rays generally penetrate only the epidermis, which is the upper layer of the skin. This causes sunburn.
  • UVA rays penetrate below the epidermis, stimulating the pigmented skin cells to produce melanin, which results in a tan.
  • Researchers are seeing indications that UVA rays cause most skin cancers. UVA rays also cause premature aging and wrinkles.

Tanning Bed Safety Myths

It’s a common myth that tanning in a tanning bed is safer than being outdoors in the sun. The truth is that both outdoor sun exposure and indoor tanning bed exposure are dangerous for the skin.

  • Tanning beds use mostly artificial UVA rays, which are the type of rays that cause most skin cancers. Many people mistakenly think that UVA rays are safer.
  • People also think that tanning in a tanning bed can provide a “base tan” to prevent later burns. But a base tan can be equally as dangerous as a sunburn.

Why Tanning Beds Are Dangerous for Teenagers

Tanning beds are dangerous for everyone, but teenagers and young adults who use tanning beds regularly can be especially vulnerable to skin damage.

  • Early exposure to tanning beds can increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma.
  • Melanoma is a common type of cancer for teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 29.
  • Melanoma can spread to other organs. If it reaches the lymph nodes, you have only a 62 percent chance of living for five years.

Learn More About Skin Cancer and Skin Health