Myths and Facts About Tanning Beds

I may start to sound like a broken record with some things, but this topic bears repeating. I am still amazed at the number of teenagers who use commercial tanning beds. Even in the summer, getting a tan is popular with teens before they go on a beach vacation. The American Academy of Pediatrics shared some information about these hazardous contraptions that is good to know:

  • People who use tanning beds before the age of 35 years are 75 percent more likely to get melanoma (the worst kind of skin cancer) than are nonusers.
  • Each year, melanoma kills 1 out of 8 people who have the disease.
  • People who start visiting tanning salons when still young—especially before age 18—are also at higher risk for other types of skin cancer, too.
  • The bright lights used in tanning beds can cause eye damage, suppress the immune system, and prematurely age the skin.
  • Boys and men use tanning salons, too!

In some states, it is illegal for children under age 18 to use tanning beds. However, some salons will let teens use the tanning beds if the child has a note from a parent. Don’t give your child a note! (But, really, I have to wonder how hard it would be to forge a parental note?)

Myth: Tanning before going on vacation is safer because it prevents sunburn.
Truth: Tan skin is damaged skin.

“Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow,’ any tan is a sign of skin damage,” says Sharon Miller, M.S.E.E., a scientist for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and an international expert on UV radiation and tanning.

Be a role model

First, follow sun safe practices and take care of your own skin. Then talk to your teen and explain the dangers of too much sunlight, both natural... and unnatural. Sometimes talking with teens about the more visible changes caused by tanning beds, such as wrinkles and leathery skin, makes more of an impact than the threat of some vague concern about skin cancers yet to come.

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