You have probably seen these facts before—several glossy magazines have been promoting Safe Sun this season—but all the information is worth repeating.
The International Tanning Association (the public face of the tanning bed industry) has been on an aggresive PR campaign, trying to sell indoor tanning as a safe and healthy lifestyle choice.
The simple truth: there is no such thing as a healthy tan.
Tanning should be avoided at all costs! Both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Medical Association have published studies showing that a twenty minute session in a tanning bed is as harmful as three hours of sun exposure, and a single indoor tanning session raises the risk of developing melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) by fifty-five percent.
Myths the ITA wants you to accept as truths:
Myth #1: You need indoor tanning (or tanning in general) to produce Vitamin D.
UNTRUE! It is true that you need light exposure to produce enough Vitamin D to maintain healthy levels in the body, but you do NOT need a tan to do so. The body requires 600 IU of Vitamin D to maintain a healthy body. Five minutes of moderate light exposure per day will produce 1500 IU in the body. Neither a tan nor excessive light exposure is required to mainatin healthy Vitamin D levels. Oh and by the way, sunscreen does not interrupt Vitamin D production either.
Myth #2: There is no link between tanning beds and skin cancer.
UNTRUE! Both the Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have published studies showing a direct link between tanning bed use and increased development of skin cancer. There are also volumes of research proving a link between excessive UVA/UVB exposure and skin cancer. Tanning bed bulbs emit three to fifteen times the UVA levels found in the earth's atmosphere on a high UV index day (depending on the type of bulbs used). UVA does cause skin cancer. Period.
Myth #3: You need a base tan to protect your skin.
UNTRUE! Any tan means that you have damaged the skin. When the cellular DNA mutates (from UVA exposure), the body produces melanin to fight additional damage. True, a tan will protect your skin (for a short period of time), but to achieve a tan, you must actually cause the very damage that the melanin protects from. The best way to protect the skin is to limit all exposure to UVA/UVB light to five to thirty minutes per day, at a moderate UV index.
Lastly, here are some interesting stats that the ITA never mentions in any of their press releases:
1. The World Health Organization has classified tanning beds as a definite cause of cancer.
2. Melanoma is the number one diagnosed cancer in women ages twenty-five to twenty-nine.
3. One tanning session in a tanning bed, before the age of thirty, increases the risk of developing melanoma by seventy-five percent.
I have said numerous times to stay out of the sun. Now I am saying—get out of the tanning bed!