Ads for tanning salons and tanning systems promise a bronzed body year-round, but experts agree that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from these devices damages the skin and poses serious health risks. Sunburns and tans are signs of skin damage. Deliberate tanning, either indoors or out, increases your risk of skin cancer
Here are the facts about indoor tanning.
The lamps used in tanning systems increase the risk of skin cancer. If you see a claim that indoor tanning won’t increase your risk of cancer, don’t believe it. According to the Surgeon General, UV rays damage the skin and increase the risk of melanoma, squamous cell, and basal cell skin cancer. What’s more, indoor tanning can cause sunburns and premature aging, including wrinkles and age spots. It also can lead to serious eye damage if eye protection is not used.
The U.S. government does not recommend the use of indoor tanning equipment. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. The FDA requires indoor tanning equipment to have signs warning that repeated exposure may cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer, and the Surgeon General recommends that people completely avoid indoor tanning.
There is no proof that indoor tanning is safer than tanning outdoors. Indoor tanning systems give concentrated UV exposure regardless of geographical location, time of year, or time of day, and expose areas of the body not normally exposed to the sun. Many people who tan indoors get burns. In fact, in the U.S., about 3,200 people a year go to the emergency room for injuries from indoor tanning.
You don’t need a tan to generate Vitamin D. Vitamin D has many roles in human health. For example, it’s essential for promoting good bone health. While UV radiation helps your body generate vitamin D, you don’t need a tan to get that benefit. According to the Surgeon General, fair and light-skinned people can get a healthy dose of vitamin D from 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected natural sun exposure on the face, arms, and hands two to three times a week during the summer. People with darker skin may require three to six times that much exposure to generate a similar level of Vitamin D. You also can get vitamin D from food and supplements. Good food sources of Vitamin D include Vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice, and salmon, tuna, catfish, and fish liver oils.
Indoor tanning causes premature aging. UV radiation causes wrinkles and age spots. The theory that adding red light to an indoor tanning system will result in reduced wrinkles and a reversal in the appearance of aging has not proven to be true.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforce laws dealing with tanning devices. The FTC investigates false, misleading, and deceptive advertising claims about the devices; the FDA enforces regulations that deal with the labels on the devices. In addition, in 2014, the Surgeon General issued a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, warning against excessive, avoidable, and unnecessary UV exposures, including any use of indoor tanning systems.
To learn more about the risks of tanning, visit:
- The Food and Drug Administration
- Office of the Surgeon General
- The American Cancer Society
- The American Academy of Dermatology