September 29, 2023

The Dangers of Tanning Beds

Woman in a tanning bed

Many people use tanning beds to get a base tan before spending time outside or to maintain their tan throughout the year. But are tanning beds safe?

No, tanning beds are not safe. Using them and being exposed to their ultraviolet (UV) rays creates significant health risks.

This article explains why tanning beds are harmful.

Risks of Tanning Beds

It’s rare for a common practice to be universally considered unsafe, but that’s true with tanning beds. Many clinical research studies published in peer-reviewed journals have proven the risks of tanning beds. The science is clear: Tanning beds are not safe.

While it’s true that the sun also emits UV rays, the UVA rays (a specific type of UV light) produced by tanning beds are two to three times more powerful. Consequently, even one session in a tanning bed can be harmful, and your chances of developing skin cancer grow with each additional session.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to UV light exposure, particularly getting severe sunburns at a young age. It is the second most common form of cancer for young adults ages 15-29.

It’s also vital to understand the relationship between tanning beds and vitamin D if you’re pregnant. Using a tanning bed can affect your body’s ability to make and use vitamin D and folic acid, impacting how your baby grows and develops. So, tanning beds pose an additional risk for pregnant people and their unborn babies.

Other Skin Cancer Risk Factors

Tanning beds aren’t safe for anyone. But if you indoor tan, the risks of developing cancer are even higher if you have any of these characteristics:

  • Fair skin
  • Blue, green, or gray eye color
  • Blonde, red, or light brown hair
  • Difficulty tanning
  • A tendency to burn easily

You also have an increased risk of skin cancer if you live at or regularly visit a high altitude. UV exposure increases with elevation.

Identifying Melanoma

Melanoma lesions grow upward from the skin before growing down into the tissue below your skin’s surface and metastasizing. If you have a spot on your skin that has any of the following characteristics, get it checked immediately:

  • It’s growing in size.
  • Its borders are irregular.
  • The pigment is black or bluish.
  • It has satellite lesions that develop around it.
  • It bleeds repeatedly, without any trauma causing it.
  • It looks like a wound that fails to heal.
  • A mole becomes itchy, scaly, or oozy.

Other Reasons to Avoid Tanning Beds

In addition to the significant risk of skin cancer, indoor tanning can cause:

  • Premature aging. Tanning causes your skin to lose elasticity and wrinkle prematurely.
  • Immune suppression. UV radiation may suppress the proper functioning of your body’s immune system and your skin’s natural defenses, leaving you more vulnerable to diseases, including skin cancer.
  • Eye damage. Exposure to UV radiation can cause irreversible damage to your eyes.
  • Allergic reaction. People who are especially sensitive to UV radiation may develop an itchy red rash.

If you want to look tan, consider using sunless tanning products. Also called self-tanners, they can give your skin a tanned look without exposing it to harmful UV rays. Sunless tanning products are commonly sold as lotions and sprays.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Skin Cancer

If you think you may have skin cancer, contact your Baptist Health physician. They can assess your condition, and if you have skin cancer, they can refer you to our cancer care specialists.

Learn More.