by Kimberly Allen R.N.
When it comes to our skin the only difference between a tan and a sunburn is the color. In the 1920’s having a tan became the image of good health and vitality. Back then they also believed smoking was safe too. Since that time we have learned so much about the dangers of smoking and exposure to UV rays. For the most part society and our culture has accepted the science that smoking is dangerous for our health, however the same can not be said when it comes to the science that says exposure to UV rays is dangerous.
Tanning salons have become big business with 30 million people visiting tanning salons every year creating revenue of around $5 Billion a year. For years tanning beds have been marketed as the “safe” way to tan. The fact is tanning beds are not safe despite what your tanning salon says. The UV rays that are emitted from tanning beds are just as deadly as the UV rays from the sun. The science has proven that using a tanning bed increases your risk for skin cancer. Unfortunately, those at greatest risk are the more than 2 million teenagers that use tanning beds every year. During the teen years our bodies are in a period of accelerated growth which increases the cells susceptibility to damage by UV radiation. In fact studies show that the younger you are when you start using a tanning bed the greater you risk for melanoma the deadliest form of skin cancer. In addition to skin cancer tannin beds have been proven to damage the immune system and cause serious problems with our eyes. People that use tanning beds regularly have increased incidence of cataracts, retinal damage including AMD, as well as corneal burns and infections.
The FDA and CDC have both issued warnings against the use of tanning beds. Some experts have said that tanning beds are the equivalent of smoking for your skin. In other words tanning beds cause as much damage to your skin as smoking does to your lungs. The World Health Organization (WHO) has requested a ban on all teens using tanning beds. Currently only half of the states have regulations in place for tanning bed use by teens, yet the same warnings have been issued in regards to smoking and every state regulates the sale of tobacco to teens.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a report that found most tanning salons gave false information about the risks of tanning bed use. According to the report committee investigators contacted tanning salons in each state and the District of Columbia and asked each several questions regarding policies, risks and benefits of tanning. The results is alarming. The investigators report that:
1. Almost all of the salons denied the known risks of tanning bed use.
2. Four out of five salons falsely claim that tanning bed use is beneficial to a young persons health.
3. Salons use a variety if approaches to minimize the health risks of tanning bed use.
4. Tanning salons do not follow the FDA recommendations on tanning frequency.
5. Tanning salons target teenage girls in their advertisements.
The bottom line is that any tan that is obtained through exposure to UV radiation is dangerous and the tanning industry is playing Russian roulette with our young people all for the sake of profit.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.