Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tanning Myths and Facts

I will be attending an event at the NC State Legislature Building on June 13.  This event will support efforts by the North Carolina Dermatology Association to help spread the word about tanning beds.  I’m sure there will be an itinerary and I’ll stick with any discussions on their agenda.  Still, I hope to steer some legislators towards this blog and have them read some thoughts and facts I’ve gathered for their information and knowledge.

So Mr. /Ms. Legislator, I present to you several myths and facts below regarding indoor tanning.  Please read, learn, and support a tanning ban for minors in North Carolina.

Myth:  Indoor Tanning Doesn't Cause Melanoma

Fact:  The term “causes” implies that if you tan, you WILL get cancer. This is wrong, however the fact remains that exposure to indoor tanning increases the risk of developing melanoma.  A review of 19 separate published studies showed that use of tanning beds boosted the risk of melanoma by 75%.

Myth: You Need the UV Rays to Get Enough Vitamin D

Fact:  No one disputes that sunlight produces vitamin D which improves bone health and possibly heart health and resistance to breast cancer.  However, most medical professionals suggest receiving your Vitamin D intake through supplements and Vitamin D fortified food such as milk, cereal, and yogurt as well as from salmon and tuna.

Myth: Tanning beds are a safe way to tan

Fact:  There is no safe way to tan.  Tanning, whether indoor or outdoor, is evidence of damaged skin at the inner, epidermal region.     

Myth: Tanning beds emit UVA rays which do not burn the skin the way UVB rays will.  Therefore, tanning beds are safer than the sun which emits both UVA and UVB rays.

Fact:  While UVB rays are the main contributor to sunburns, the World Health Organization has determined that UVA rays are equally dangerous and perhaps even more likely to lead to melanoma.

Myth: Tanning beds emulate the natural sun.  The sun isn’t bad for you!

Fact: No one will deny that the sun is essential for life and generally good for you.  But the UV rays within the sun are dangerous.  Tanning beds are concentrated UV rays which have been measured to emit 12X the amount of UV radiation as the outdoor sunshine!

Myth: Getting a base tan from indoor tanning protects your skin.

Fact:  While a base tan offers some minimal protection, any change in skin color, including the base tan itself, is the body’s natural defense against too much UV radiation.  In short, ANY tan is visible evidence that the skin is already damaged.

Myth: Sunless tanning sprays offer protection from the sun.

Fact:  While spray tans are certainly the preferred method of getting that “summer glow,” the sprays offer absolutely no protection against UV rays.  These self-tanners merely color the dead skin cells on the skin’s outer most layer.  Those who spray tan still need to apply sunscreen when outdoors.

Myth:  Tanning beds are the best way to treat various ailments, such as acne and psoriasis.

Fact:  While some practitioners might suggest such treatment, the vast majority of medical professionals will state that the risks of tanning beds far outweigh any such benefits.  For those people who are convinced otherwise, I would propose a law that states any “prescribed” treatments be administered by a licensed radiologist in a controlled medical facility, and not within a tanning booth run by employees working for the summer.

Myth:  Current laws requiring parental consent are effective, thus no further restrictions are needed.

Fact:  There have been reports, including one by the NBC Today Show, where under-aged women were freely allowed to use the tanning facilities despite the local or state laws requiring parental consent.  Also, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report that revealed tanning salons were routinely not providing proper information to teens, including inaccuracies about health risks, in an effort to gain business.  Loose legislation simply will not work.  Tougher laws are necessary to protect our children.

Myth:  Government should not impose age restrictions.

Fact:  If that were the case, we’d be selling alcohol and cigarettes to minors, as well as allowing children to drive cars and vote.  Age limits already exist, and for good reason.  In the case of alcohol and tobacco, such limits are meant to protect the children.  For voting and driving, the limits may be imposed because children simply do not have the intellectual maturity to make the decisions involved with each.  Kids just don’t realize the dangers of tanning and they will continue to use tanning beds despite any potential dangers in their future.  Like with alcohol and tobacco, the government has a responsibility to help protect our children!  The State of California and the City of Chicago have already taken such responsibility!

Myth:  If tanning restrictions are imposed, many tanning salons will close, putting people out of work.

Fact:  When the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, there was much discussion on the effects towards alcohol sales and bar patronage.  Naturally, business did fall off, but it did not disappear.  Likewise, despite the wishes of those who oppose tanning, the tanning industry will not disappear entirely.  However, safe spray tanning has also grown in popularity.  If government is afraid of increased unemployment, I would suggest a subsidy program for tanning salons to trade in their tanning booths and beds for spraying equipment and training.  This would help keep the children safe from tanning and promote ongoing business.

The studies and facts from which the above claims are made include legitimate sources such as the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Dermatology, the FDA, and the World Health Organization.   The latter has classified ultraviolet radiation as a carcinogenic, in the same category as plutonium and uranium.

In summary, there is no such thing as a safe tan.  But the fact remains that many teenagers (and adults) consider being tan a fashionable necessity.  It’s time to protect these children and impose an indoor tanning ban on minors.  Once these children grow up to adulthood, they can make their own choices…and hopefully, the healthier choice.


  1. There are a couple of words missing in almost every "myth" in this article.
    The author forgot to add "too much" [tanning] and "over-exposure" [to UV-light].

    Not even the most hard-core anti-tanning propagandist have so far been able to present any statistic proof that moderate, non-burning, regular tanning (outdoors as well as indoors), according to each persons skin-type and genetically predispositions, will increase the risk neither for skin-cancer or premature aging.

    Furthermore, some of the "myths" above seems to be invented by the sun-scare because they are too deliberately idiotic to come from anyone who knows even the slightest about how tanning works.

    See the latest news about the sun-scare here ...

    1. well I can tell you as someone who was not a sun worshipper when I was younger, nor do I know what a sunburn feels like that I know "too much" about what fighting Melanoma feels like.

  2. Great job!

    The tanning salon I went to never warned me about "over exposure" or "too much" tanning. I was even burned quite a few times. I know a lot of people who never used a tanning bed or tanned outdoors who have melanoma from burns as a child, or who never had more than a little exposure.

    I am sick and tired of hearing about the "sun-scare" that is supposedly going on to keep people from using tanning beds and instead protect themselves from UV damage. Ask any medical professional what they think about tanning. It is listed as a carcinogenic! It is not safe in anyway. I can honestly say that it is pathetic that anyone would suggest that tanning is safe! I speak as someone that bought into all the crap about tanning being safe in moderation. Melanoma is deadly and it could have killed me! Get educated people!

  3. I agree Melissa,

    I never burned as a kid so my Mom never worried about putting sunscreen on me. I also was never a sun worshipper in my teens and often got teased about my "farmers tan" (forearms and face only - rarely wore shorts). Yet here I am trying to spread awareness about the dangers of Melanoma because I would not wish my worst enemy to have to go through fighting this disease.


  4. I think it is obvious that the tanning industry is becoming nervous...


  5. I agree with Gor, some of these "myths" are created only by those who are one sided story. One example is the about indoo tanning beds which depends on how a person will use it. What causes cancer is the "over exposure" which means, that those people who uses those tanning beds "lacks knowledge" on how to use it. According to what I read about Dr Mercola, there are different typers of tanning bed which are the safe ones and those which are the harmful ones.

    Read the full article
    indoor tanning by Dr. Mercola

  6. so lovemyownhealth, you're saying that this "Dr Mercola" looks at both sides of the story even though he's SELLING tanning beds that expose you to UVA/UVB rays? Most of us on this blog aren't selling sunscreen.... we're just fighting the disease that comes with exposing yourself to the exact thing he's selling. I got some great waterfront property in Texas if you're interested.

  7. I find it telling that the only people who claim there's such a thing as safe indoor tanning are in the business of selling tanning beds-- e.g. Mercola. And this same 'doctor' would advise you not to have your kids vaccinated against common infectious diseases. There's a reason he's on the radar screen of organizations like Quackwatch.