During the winter months, as the sun wanes and you crave sunshine and the tan of summertime, many people take to using tanning beds. Some believe that tanning beds don’t cause any skin damage, others simply want to look tan or are "preparing their skin" for a winter trip to warmer weather. Despite the evidence that tanning beds can lead to skin cancer, myths surrounding tanning beds persist because damage from the sun often isn’t seen for years; young people especially don’t worry about thing like skin cancer - which may or may not appear until they are older.
The danger of tanning beds, however, isn’t only cancer. According to a study, there are 3,234 injuries every year from tanning beds. These injuries include skin burns, fainting, bruises and even dislocations. Gery P. Guy, the author of the study stated that these injuries are only those seen in emergency rooms. There are probably many additional injuries where patients consult with their family physician, an urgent care facility or treat at home.
Not surprisingly, skin burns were listed as the most common injury. And women were four times more likely to sustain an injury, however, this is most likely because women use tanning beds much more often than men. People between the ages of 18 and 34 years of age had more than one-half of all the injuries.
The rates of skin cancer have increased in young adults. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer in individuals between the ages of 25 and 29 years old, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Indoor tanning can increase your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The use of tanning beds has also been associated with an increased risk for other types of skin cancer - squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and ocular melanoma (cancer of the eye). About one in four non-Hispanic white women report using a tanning salon.
Despite the dangers, tanning beds are still used with great frequency. A study released in October, 2014 found that half of the top 125 colleges and universities (as listed in the US News and World Report), have indoor tanning facilities on or near campuses. Almost 15 percent of these colleges allowed students to use campus cash cards to pay for time tanning. Some off-campus student housing had indoor tanning facilities available to students at no cost. While colleges have stopped selling tobacco products because of their dangers, they continue to support indoor tanning.
The concern about tanning beds is spreading and 11 states have banned those under 18 years old from using tanning beds. The overall use and the number of injuries is also down, Guy said that there were more than 6,000 injuries in 2003, which means the injuries have dropped by almost half.
For more information on tanning beds and skin cancer:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.