There is no such thing as a safe sun tan. Tanning indoors or outdoors can both have dangerous consequences. Some people believe indoor tanning beds are not as harmful as the sun, but that is NOT true. Tanning indoors or outdoors is both equally dangerous. Tanning beds actually raise the risk of skin cancers. One study from skincancer.org found that 61 of 63 women diagnosed with melanoma before age 30 used tanning beds, that’s 97 percent of them.
The pigment in skin is produced by melanin, which is responsible for tan skin color when exposed to the sun. Once skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays, it increases the production of melanin in an attempt to protect the skin from further damage, but this also indicates some sun damage has taken place.
Evidence suggests that tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, over 3.5 million people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States each year. This doesn’t include the 70,000 diagnosed cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Worldwide, there are more skin cancers due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancers due to smoking.
The two types of sun rays that actually hit the earth’s surface are UVB and UVA. They’re the rays that are the most damaging to our skin.
UVB Shortwave ultraviolet B rays cause sunburns and damage the DNA in skin cells, which can ultimately lead to skin cancer. UVB rays are a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, but they are traditionally where most sunscreen companies focus their attention.
UVA Long-wave ultraviolet A rays result in tanning and premature signs of aging. UVA rays are prevalent in all kinds of weather and can even penetrate glass. When researchers realized UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer, they developed broad-spectrum sunscreens to protect against it, too, with the added benefit of preventing wrinkles and dark spots.
Protecting against both UVA and UVB rays is an important part of skin cancer prevention. Stacey Kimber, PA-C at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center in Twinsburg, says broad-spectrum is a key phrase to look for when purchasing sunscreen because it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
How to Prevent Skin Cancer
Limiting UV ray exposure is the best thing you can do to lower your risk of skin cancer. Here are some tips to prevent skin damage that can lead to cancer:
- Avoid direct sunlight in the hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Do NOT use tanning beds.
- Use sunscreen if the sun’s rays are unavoidable. Sunscreens that are labeled with “broad spectrum” are FDA approved to protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. You should always look for that short but powerful phrase on the bottle or tube. Your broad spectrum sunscreen should also contain an SPF of at least 30.
- Wear light protective layers to cover skin such as long sleeve tops, hats and sunglasses.
Tanning changes and ages your skin. Sometimes referred to as “photoaging,” premature aging is the result of unprotected UV exposure. It takes the form of leathery, wrinkled skin, and dark spots. The bottom line is that premature aging is a long-term side effect of UV exposure, meaning it may not show on your skin until many years after you have had a sunburn or suntan. Avoiding UV exposure is essential to maintaining healthy skin.
Stacey Kimber, PA-C or Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center can create a treatment plan based on your needs. If you are due for your yearly full body skin exam or you notice something on your body that just doesn’t look right, contact our office right away by calling 330-425-7600 to set up an appointment in Twinsburg. Treatments may include chemical peels, dermabrasion, and skin fillers.