Doing this can increase your melanoma risk
Approximately 7.8 million American adults have done it, but indoor tanning can put you at serious risk for skin cancer.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, even one indoor tanning session can increase a user’s risk of developing melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%.
In fact, researchers estimate indoor tanning may cause about 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.
Experts find the trend upsetting.
“The statistics are startling,” says Dr. Sigrun Hallmeyer, director of cancer services and oncologist/hematologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “I continue to see an increase in all stages of melanoma cases, especially among young patients in my practice. There’s really no such thing as a healthy tan, but especially when it comes to indoor tanning, my recommendation is plain and simple – do not participate.”
The trends are even more concerning when you examine who’s most prone to use the beds. More than half of indoor tanners start tanning before the age of 21, and nearly a third start tanning even earlier – before they turn 18.
Some states, like Illinois, even have legislation regulating minors’ use of tanning devices for this reason.
“Awareness and understanding of the risks of indoor tanning are integral to protecting the younger population from a dangerous habit that could have adverse and even deadly consequences later in life,” says Dr. Hallmeyer. “The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer panel have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, like tanning beds, to be a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.”
And the dangers and damage caused by indoor tanning doesn’t stop at an increased risk of melanoma.
Studies show that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning damages the DNA of skin cells and can lead to skin aging prematurely, immune system issues and even eye damage.
“There has been research that indicates over 20% of Caucasian women in their teens and 20s who use indoor tanning beds seem to exhibit a dependence on the activity,” says Dr. Hallmeyer.
Concerned about your risk?
If someone has used an indoor tanning bed in the past or has risk factors such as a history of blistering sunburns as a teenager, red or blonde hair, marked freckling or a family history of melanoma and is over 40, Dr. Hallmeyer recommends an annual skin exam with a trained professional.
Monthly skin self-exams are also important to determine if you need to see a physician.
You can use the ABCDEs of melanoma to check your moles:
- Border irregularity
- Color change
- Diameter greater than 6 mm
- Evolving or changing lesion
About the Author
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