The Dangers Of Tanning Beds

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Tanning salon lamps produce over 90 percent UVA, not UVB. UVA penetrates the skin more deeply, so exposure to tanning lamps is even more skin cancer-causing than sun exposure. It also promotes the most dangerous, life-threatening types of skin cancer. UVA is more causative in the eventual development of melanoma than UVB, and it also plays a role in the development of basal cell carcinoma.

It may be true that tanning beds can increase blood levels of vitamin D, but the question is why would you want to age your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer to do so? Using vitamin D supplements and careful exposure to limited sunshine are always going to be more health-promoting than tanning to assure vitamin D adequacy. Basal cell carcinoma can spread relatively rapidly and can necessitate significant surgical disfigurement for removal. It even can cause death.

The tanning industry does not target or appeal to the frail elderly or those with darker skin pigmentation who are at the greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency, but rather fair-skinned teenagers and young adults who are at highest risk of photo-damage. They fuel a controversy (that sun exposure/tanning is necessary to prevent breast and other cancers) ignited by economic interests and vanity when no controversy exists. The combination of supplements and incidental or protected sun exposure is the safest and most predictable way to assure vitamin D adequacy in our population. All tanning lamps are required to carry the warning that “repeated exposure may cause skin cancer."

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