A Dermatologist Answers Your Questions about Tanning

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We talk a lot here on this site about ways to prevent skin cancer. One major preventive strategy is to stop tanning in the sun or using a tanning bed. The latest skin cancer research shows that tanning bed users are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than people who never use tanning beds. Despite these warnings, many people, especially young women, continue to tan in tanning beds because they feel that it makes them look more attractive. It can be very difficult to convince this population that tanning is unsafe. We still get questions like this one from a concerned parent about whether or not her fifteen year old daughter with fair skin is making a good or poor choice to use a tanning bed. Let us be clear that the use of a tanning bed is always a poor choice because each time you tan, it increases your risk for skin cancer. Not to mention, tanning also accelerates the aging process and contributes to the loss of skin elasticity and the development of wrinkles.

In order to clear up some of the confusion about the use of tanning beds we have invited Doctor Lawrence Green, a practicing dermatologist in Maryland, to answer some questions.

_To find out more about Doctor Green please visit his website: Aesthetics, SkinCare & DermaSurgery.  _

Question: What advice do you give to parents of teens who wish to use tanning salons?

Doctor Green: I would ask parents to tell their kids that spray on tans are safer and preferred if you like the bronzed look compared to ultraviolet tanning rays. So, if your child wants to look tan for prom for example, encourage the spray on tan, but discourage the ultraviolet radiation tanning. The World Health Organization has classified tanning beds to be the same level of carcinogenic danger as cigarette smoke-called Class I carcinogens. Because of the recent increase of deadly melanoma skin cancer seen in young adults that has been attributed to teen age tanning, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Dermatology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all recommended tanning be outlawed for those who are younger than 18. Tanning use by teens has certainly become a serious public health danger.

Question: What do you say to the tanning industry representatives who like to visit our site to tell people that tanning is safe in moderation?

Doctor Green: Every time you tan, you are destroying your skin's DNA. After awhile, your body will not be able to repair the damage tanning has caused, and skin cancer can develop. If not skin cancer, early wrinkles and uneven skin color and tone that is permanent will certainly develop.

Question: What do you say to advocates of tanning salons who say that we need to get our Vitamin D from the sun or tanning booths?

Doctor Green: Actually, tanning from a tanning salon is a very inefficient way to obtain Vitamin D. Taking Vitamin D supplements is not only better and safer for your body, but also a more efficient way to obtain it.

Question: Are you seeing younger people with melanoma in your practice?

Doctor Green: I have seen many people, primarily women who said they frequented tanning salons as a teen, come to my office with melanoma. It is truly sad what these young adults have to go through once they are given a diagnosis of cancer at such a young age. Even worse, this could all have been avoidable if they had not tanned as a teen.

Thank you Doctor Green for answering our questions and for your advice.

For more information about the dangers of tanning beds please refer to these SkinCancerConnection articles: