Tanning Bed Dangers

Risks go beyond saving your skin

Many people prepare for the summer sun by hitting a tanning bed, so they can hit the beach with a little color. But Jennifer Lucas, MD, a dermatologist in the Cleveland Clinic Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute, says there’s more than one reason to avoid tanning beds altogether.

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She says tanning beds may:

  • Increase your risk for skin cancer
  • Suppress your immune system
  • Cause problems with your eyes
  • Prematurely age your skin

“Frankly, we all want to look younger,” Dr. Lucas says. “Why do people tan? Because they want to look good, so the more exposure you get, the more photo-aging or damage you do to your skin,” she adds.

Tanning beds radiate UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply and damage collagen, the basic building block of our skin and elastin that helps to keep us looking younger.

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Studies have linked tanning-bed use to an increased risk of all forms of skin cancers. Your risk can go up as much as 15 percent for every four tanning-bed visits, and a 2010 study found bacteria like E. coli on tanning beds in New York City.

Dr. Lucas says dermatologists are seeing skin cancers developing in younger people, which many experts attribute to tanning bed use.

“It’s that younger, female age group that’s really starting to have an increased risk of melanoma, in particular. It’s hard to know exactly what to attribute that to but probably the biggest thing we’re seeing is that younger women are the ones in tanning beds.” Dr. Lucas says.

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Dr. Lucas says the safest way to tan is through sunless tanning. She recommends store-bought or professionally done spray-tans to get your healthy glow.

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