Jan. 17, 2006 According to a 2005 survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology, 92 percent of the respondents understood that getting a tan from the sun is dangerous. Yet, 65 percent said that they think they look better when they have a tan.
In a quest to get a “sunless” tan, almost 30 million Americans visit indoor tanning salons each year. On an average day, more than 1 million Americans visit tanning salons. Of these, 70 percent are Caucasian girls and women between the ages of 16 and 49. More than 25 percent of teen girls have used tanning salons three or more times in their lives.
While many people believe that tanning at a tanning salon is a safer alternative to sunbathing, this is not the case, according to an article published in the December 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“Indoor tanning is simply not safe,” said dermatologist James M. Spencer, M.D., one of the authors of the article. “A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that there were 700 emergency room visits because of injuries like sunburns, infections, and eye damage from tanning bed use. In addition to these immediate injuries, tanning bed users have an increased risk of developing skin cancer, including the most deadly form, melanoma, in the long term.”
An elevated skin cancer risk is one of the most serious side effects of indoor tanning. In one study that the authors reviewed, 106,973 women from Norway and Sweden were followed for an average of eight years. Overall, regular tanning bed use was associated with a 55 percent increase in the risk of developing melanoma, especially in women between the ages of 20 and 29.
“Indoor tanning is practiced solely for cosmetic reasons,” Dr. Spencer said. “Individuals who utilize tanning beds are intentionally putting their health at risk.”
Recently, medical organizations have been taking a harder look at indoor tanning. In March 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that no persons under the age of 18 use tanning beds. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (Association) fully supports this recommendation and encourages states to actively pursue legislation that protects children.
Specifically, the Association supports the following requirements for indoor tanning salons: • No minor should be permitted to use tanning devices. • A Surgeon General’s warning should be placed on all tanning devices. • No person or facility should advertise the use of any ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B tanning device using wording such as “safe,” “safe tanning,” “no harmful rays,” “no adverse effect,” or similar wording or concepts. “The volume of research we reviewed confirms that indoor tanning is a dangerous practice and poses great risks to a person’s health,” Dr. Spencer said. “There is no reason to participate in this activity.”
More than 10,500 people will die from skin cancer in 2005. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. Indoor tanning lamps can emit both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation at high levels and the new high-pressure UVA sunlamps can emit doses of UVA that can be as much as 15 times that of the sun, significantly increasing a tanning bed user’s skin cancer risk.
“If you really want to look tan, consider using a sunless self-tanning product,” Dr. Spencer said. “But remember to use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 with it.”
About the Academy’s Survey
The study results were determined by a random sample telephone survey conducted among a national probability sample of 1,013 adults comprising 505 men and 508 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. This CARAVAN® survey was conducted in January 2005 by Opinion Research Corporation (Princeton, N.J.) in collaboration with the Academy.
The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 14,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or http://www.aad.org.
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