Do Tanning Beds cause cancer? New research finds that regular use of tanning beds triples or even quadruples the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. This study, the largest of its kind, examined whether indoor tanning caused skin cancer. The study found that compared to people that never used a tanning bed, indoor tanners had a 74% increased risk for melanoma. With non-melanoma type skin cancers, people that used tanning beds were 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell cancer and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell cancer.
Ultraviolet radiation is part of the electromagnetic light spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation has shorter wavelengths than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. UVA consists of long wavelengths and UVB has shorter wavelengths, both penetrate the atmosphere. UVC has the shortest wavelengths and are absorbed by the ozone layer, never reaching the earth.
Most of us are exposed to UVA throughout our lifetime. It accounts for 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth's surface. UVA may be less intense than UVB, but it has relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year, and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVA causes skin aging and wrinkling, and penetrates the skin deeper at the basal layer damaging the cells, which studies show contribute to and may even initiate skin cancers. Tanning beds, depending on whether they are high speed or high pressure, emit mainly UVA rays.
UVB, is the chief cause of skin reddening and and sunburn, damaging the skin's more superficial epidermal layer. It plays a key role in skin cancer but also contributes to tanning and photoaging. Its intensity varies by season, location and time of day, most significant from 10 am to 4 pm, April to October.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from UV radiation indoors and outdoors? Always seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. Since UVA penetrates glass, consider adding flat, tinted UV-protective film to windows. Bright or dark-colored, lustrous clothes reflect more UV radiation than do pastels and bleached cottons; and tightly woven, loose-fitting clothes provide more of a barrier between your skin and the sun. Broad-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses help shield the sensitive skin on your head, neck, and around the eyes. An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97 percent; and SPF 50, 98 percent. The Skin Cancer Foundation maintains that SPFs of 15 or higher are necessary for adequate protection. Since both UVA and UVB are harmful, you need protection from both kinds of rays. Look for sunscreen with multi spectrum, broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection on labels. Also according to newer data, avoid tanning beds.
Remember for vitamin D absorption, we only need about 15 minutes of sun exposure!