Is the Cost of Beauty Too High?

Safety of Teen Tanning Bed Use Questioned

We all like to look glowing and healthy, but at what cost? Teenagers are especially vulnerable to the pressures of looking good at all costs as they are bombarded with images of celebrities and models with perfect, glowing skin. Many teens try to obtain that golden glow by using indoor tanning beds. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 2.3 million teens use indoor tanning devices each year. “Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage,” explains Sharon Miller, an FDA scientist and UV radiation and tanning expert.

Currently, 18 states are considering a total ban on the use of tanning beds by teenagers. In Kentucky, no child under age 14 can use a tanning bed without a parent being present, and for teens between ages 14 and 17, a parental consent form must be on file at the tanning bed facility. Indiana requires that teens under age 16 must be accompanied by a parent when tanning, and between ages 16 and 18, a parent must give written consent in the presence of the tanning bed operator.

Why all the fuss? The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, and the American Academy of Dermatology all support a teenage tanning bed ban because of numerous studies linking UV radiation exposure from tanning beds to increased risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. The Harvard Medical School found that women who used tanning beds as young women were more likely than others to develop skin cancer, and the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that women who used tanning beds at least four times per year between high school and age 35 were 15 percent more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than non-users.

Opponents of the bans argue that the benefits from UV radiation exposure—like the natural production of Vitamin D—outweigh the minimal risk from indoor tanning. They also object to the government regulating a decision that should be left to the parents of the teen.

As with any decision affecting your child’s health, we recommend that you consult with your doctor about the risks of your teenager using a tanning bed, as well as exposure to the sun in general. We pass along a number of safety tips if you and/or your teenager use indoor tanning beds:

  1. Always wear protective eye goggles
  2. Do not tan if pregnant or nursing
  3. Limit indoor tanning exposure time
  4. Allow 24-48 hours between tanning sessions
  5. Protect sensitive and delicate skin areas
  6. Use tanning lotions made for use with tanning beds
  7. Drink plenty of water after tanning bed use

We suggest that if you must have that “healthy” glow, why not try spray tans and tanning lotions? Current brands no longer give you that fake orangey look but provide the natural looking tan we all desire. You get all the benefits of that glow without the health risk!

May is “Melanoma Awareness Month” or “Skin Cancer Awareness Month”. Watch for our next blog on sun tanning safety tips!