Corrine, a high school student, talks to her friends about going tanning at a local tanning salon after school. She uses the tanning salon between two to four times a week. She knows the risks, but they do not seem harmful to her now.  

This is a typical tanning bed used in most salons as a ‘level 1 bed.’ The maximum amount of minutes that can be spent in this bed is 20 minutes, but is it a good idea to spend any time here? Credit: Madeline Gilstrap

   The International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR), an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), says that the lifetime risk of skin cancer grows by nearly 75% when people use tanning beds. Of the 28 million people in the United States who use tanning beds, 8.2% are teenagers, says the American Academy of Dermatology

   Doctors are now seeing a huge rise in the number of the younger generation getting skin cancer after use in tanning beds and outdoor sun exposure, according to the IARC. Another problem associated with indoor tanning is eye damage, which recently has been associated to eye cancers, states the IARC

   “Minors should not use indoor tanning equipment because overexposure to UV radiation can lead to the development of skin cancer,” warns the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA). Over 30 states restrict the use of indoor tanning facilities by minors, which means all persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian in order to use tanning facilities. However, the WHO believes that minors should not be able under any circumstance to use an indoor tanning bed. 
   DeAnn Lazovich, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine stated, “Melanoma is related to exposure to ultraviolet light. The risk is 74% higher for the people who tanned indoors, compared to those who did not.” 
   Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer; over 68,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with the cancer each year, according to the WHO. Of these 68,000 people, around 10% will not survive.
   Studies have shown that people who spend over 50 hours in a tanning bed have a much greater risk of cancer compared to those who have refrained from ever using tanning beds. The tanning bed industry has responded by claiming that UV rays are a healthy way to receive the necessary intake of Vitamin D. 
   Sunlight gives off UV-B rays and UV-A rays, both are related to aging of skin and increase the risk of obtaining skin cancer. However, UV-B rays cause a more reddish burn, while UV-A rays do not cause a burn unless there are high amounts of exposure. 
   Tanning beds predominantly use UV-A rays, which can penetrate deeper into the skin. The AADA says that UV rays from tanning beds have been proven to be around 3- to 7-times more intense than sunlight. 
The Food and Drug Administration says this light can also destroy collagen and elastin, which leaves the skin dry and leathery. Collagen is a protein that connects bodily tissues like skin, tendons, and bones. Elastin is another protein that is found in the skin and tissues in the body. Both proteins help keep the skin flexible and tight; an example is when skin returns to the normal shape after it is pulled. 
   The skin grows a darker color when exposed to the UV rays because it produces melanin. Melanin darkens the cells that lie in the epidermis, which is the top layer of skin. Because it darkens the cells in the epidermis, it provides a natural protection from the effects of UV rays; however, it does not provide a complete protection from these rays. 
   According to the WHO, melanoma can appear years or also decades after sunburn. Caucasians are at the greater risk of obtaining melanoma. Melanoma begins in the skin cells called melanocytes that make melanin. If the skin receives too much UV rays, these melanocytes can begin to grow in an abnormal way, which can, in turn, become cancerous. Some signs of melanoma can be a change in size, shape, or color of a pre-existing mole, or it can appear as a new mole. 
   So has Corrine’s attitude about tanning changed after learning about this information? “I definitely will not be using tanning beds as often as I have been. Maybe, I can try to use self tanning lotions to get that golden brown tan,” says Corrine. 
Madeline Gilstrap

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  1. Great information! It helped me learn more about the dangers of tanning. Which states have the law against tanning as a minor?

  2. It’s good that you’re making people more aware of the effects of tanning, i hope that people use this information to their benefit. Why do you think people continue to tan after they’ve been informed about thier risk for cancer?

  3. This article is very informative and helpful, especially to teenagers who do not know the serious consequences of the use of tanning beds.
    Are there any bad consequences to tanning lotion?

  4. Are there any other effects other than melanoma caused by indoor tanning? This article is very informative and it is put together well.

    • I work at a tanning salon and each person is very different.
      the duration of time spent in a tanning bed depends of your skin type.
      if you burn easily compared to someone who never burns. A good and resonable time to spend in a tanning bed for your first time would be anywhere from 7 to 9 minutes.

  5. Really good article! there was lots of good information on the effects of tanning in a tanning bed. This definitely made me think twice before going tanning again