Tanning Beds Increase Cancer Threat


Researchers caution that the roughly 1 million Americans who seek a "safe" tan at their local tanning salon face the same risk of skin cancer as sun-worshippers.

The bottom line would be that suntan salon exposure produces cell damage in the skin -- the type of damage that potentially can lead to skin cancer.

The researchers focused on 11 men and women with fair skin between the ages of 18 and 50. All were in good health, and none had tanned within the month prior to the study. Investigators exposed the participants to 10 full-body tanning bed sessions over a 2-week period, using the same types of UV bulbs most commonly found in US tanning salons.

The dose of UV exposure was incrementally increased at every session, with a small portion of each participant's skin covered throughout the study and another portion exposed only once at the last session.

The investigators compared skin and blood samples taken from the fully, partially and unexposed skin areas. Investigators report that as a result of the full exposure to the tanning bed's UV bulbs, the participants had alterations in certain parts of their DNA and among certain skin proteins.

These molecular changes, the team determined, had the potential to increase the bed-tanner's long-term risk of developing skin cancer -- a risk they described as being similar to that associated with lying in the sun.

Suntan salons tend to like to make the claim that their tan is safe -- and it is not.

The higher the number of exposures to a tanning bed the greater the chances that an individual's skin may not be able to perfectly correct the damage done each time -- placing the tanner at an increased risk of cancer.

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology May 2001;44:775-780

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

My patients ask me this question and I thought many people would benefit from my writing down my thought on the matter.

In theory, a tanning bed can be safe, but the practical reality is that most all commercial tanning beds are accidents waiting to happen.

There are two problems with them relating to two different types of radiation.

The first one is X-rays which are emitted by the ends of both bulbs. This occurs with any fluorescent bulb. The X-rays can be shielded with a piece of lead tape wrapped around the last inch of the bulb.

The second is EMF emitted by the magnetic ballast used for most all of the tanning beds. It is these magnetic ballasts that give the tanning bed the hum that you here.

The EMF decreases by one over the square root of the distance from the bulb. In simpler terms it drops off very rapidly the further you are away from the ballast, but in a tanning bed one is only several inches away from the magnetic ballast.

This problem also has a solution, in that one can remove the magnetic ballast and replace it with a very quiet and much more efficient electronic ballast. Nearly any handy electrical person can install the replacement and most electrical supply stores carry them.

So one can actually construct a "safe" tanning bed, but I don't know anyone who actually has done this.

There really is a huge market here for an entrepreneur who understands health and can market a "safe" tanning bed.

So, what are the options if you want to protect yourself prior to the summer sun or going on a vacation?

The key is to limit your initial exposure and never, never get sunburned.

The sun's most intense rays are emitted one hour on either side of 12:00 (non-Daylight Savings Time). So stay out of the sun from 11 to 1 and increase your exposure gradually.

I am not a fan of sun screens as some experts believe that the sun screen chemicals themselves actually contribute to increased risk of skin cancer as well.

Related Articles:

UV Light Linked to Skin Cancer or Is it?

Sunscreens May Not Prevent Melanoma

Vitamin D May Prevent Skin Cancer

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