There is no safe tanning. Tanned skin is always a sign of skin damage.
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You are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation when you go out in the sun AND if you use an indoor artificial tanning device. UV radiation is known to cause cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Anne Arundel County has among the highest rates of melanoma in the state of Maryland. Approximately 172 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year in the County. Compared to Maryland as a whole, the annual rate of new melanoma diagnoses in Anne Arundel County is 40 percent higher!
Tanning, whether using indoor tanning devices or outside in the sun, is largely for cosmetic purposes, and it unnecessarily increases the risk for developing skin cancer.
Here are the facts about tanning:
- Tanned skin is a sign that there has been damage to the skin and to the skin's DNA. Skin cancer is caused by the cumulative damage to the DNA after long-term, repeated exposure to UV radiation. Studies have shown that exposure to artificial tanning devices induces the same type of DNA damage as exposure to the sun.
- Most artificial tanning devices within a typical 15-30 minute tanning session can give off as much radiation as a person would receive being out at the beach all day! The UV intensity of some high pressure tanning devices can be as much as 10-15 times that of the midday sun.
- Like the sun, tanning devices can damage the skin and the eyes. UV rays cause premature skin wrinkling and can contribute to the development of cataracts.
- All parents need to be well informed about the risks of tanning before allowing their children to use indoor tanning devices. In Anne Arundel County, approximately 1 out of 10 teenagers 15-18 reported using a tanning device at least one time within the previous 12 months. Girls are 7 times more likely to have used tanning devices than boys.
Tanning facilities must obtain consent from a parent or legal guardian before a minor may use a tanning device. State law prohibits tanning facilities (including those in gyms, salons and spas) from allowing minors to use tanning devices without written consent from a parent or legal guardian. Click here for a consent form.
- People who first used tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75%.
- Women who used tanning salons at least once a month when they were 20-29 years old have 2.5 times the risk of developing melanoma later in life compared to women who have never used tanning salons.
- Some people claim that tanning is beneficial because it aids in the production of vitamin D. Research shows that frequent and prolonged exposure to tanning beds is unnecessary for adequate vitamin D production. The amount of UV radiation experienced in a single tanning session is 4.5 to 7 times the amount of radiation needed for vitamin D production. In healthy people with normal digestion, adequate vitamin D levels can be obtained through diet and vitamin supplementation.
- People who regularly use artificial tanning devices are also more likely to engage in outdoor sunbathing activities. It is important to avoid tanning regardless of the source. When you are outside, be sure to use sunscreen and sunglasses and seek shade whenever possible.
Alex the Sun Safety Alligator in his garden
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