Indoor Tanning Still Popular and Still Dangerous

Julie Shenkman
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It's no secret that indoor tanning is a dangerous activity, promoting cancer growth at an increased rate. For healthcare professionals, tanning is a constant concern, particularly because patients continue to engage in the practice despite health risks. By staying educated about the latest data, you can help keep patients informed and increase their chances of staying safe.

Tanning beds are popular year-round, particularly in the months following the summer season. According to a recent story in the Daily Record, as temperatures begin to drop, more people head to tanning salons to maintain that summer glow. For students who don't want to head back to school without a deep tan or professionals who want to stave of pale skin during days at the office, indoor options are quick and efficient.

As healthcare professionals know, tanning beds are dangerous. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists the devices as definitively "carcinogenic to humans," meaning that they have the power to cause cancer. The beds are equipped with lamps that emit artificial UV radiation, which penetrate the skin and cause cell deformation.

In addition to an increased risk of skin cancer, the IARC's research indicates that tanning beds present other dangers to users. When a person uses an indoor bed, the rays remove elasticity from the skin, which can cause wrinkles to appear earlier than they would without exposure to the UV radiation. The beds also have the potential to cause damage to eyes that cannot be reversed. When they emit UV-B radiation, the beds can damage the body's immune system, making it difficult to fight off a wide range of diseases.

For many people in the healthcare profession, it is impossible to stop clients from visiting tanning beds. If the facts about skin cancer and other dangers do not deter patients, your only alternative is to give advice that will help them tan safely. According to the FDA, people who tan in indoor beds should always wear the provided goggles to avoid eye damage. Most beds include labels that list specific times based on skin types; users should always heed the warnings to avoid burning. In addition, the FDA advises that it is best to start with short sessions instead of the maximum time. Because a burn takes time to develop, users may not realize they are causing serious damage until it is too late.

It comes as a surprise to many patients that their medical histories can increase the negative effects of UV rays. If a patient is taking medication, a consultation with a pharmacist or the doctor who wrote the prescription is advised before trying to get an indoor tan. Some medications cause increased skin sensitivity, which can boost the chance of UV damage.

As a healthcare professional, you may not be able to end the practice of indoor tanning, but you have the opportunity to mitigate the danger. By educating patients about risks and providing information about safe practices, you can help reduce the chance of skin cancer and other dangers.

(Photo courtesy of africa /


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