It’s that time of year when students get ready for summer and fun in the sun. Unfortunately many teens may head to the tanning bed to recreate that warm glow. Some may think going to a tanning bed is safer than being in the sun, since the exposure time is only about 10 minutes, but the experts at Children’s of Alabama say the use of tanning beds is why physicians are treating more and more young people for skin cancer.
Indoor Tanning vs. Sunlight
The sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet radiation that affect your skin: UVA and UVB. Tanning beds use UVA light, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB rays. So tanning beds can cause just as much – if not more – damage as the sun.
Types of Skin Cancer
Studies show that users of tanning beds have much higher risks of basal and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common types of skin cancer.
Doctors are seeing more people in their twenties, and even younger, with serious cases of skin cancer. Among teens and young adults, there is an eight-fold higher risk among tanning bed users, due to their exposure to concentrated doses of UV rays.
How to Recognize Skin Cancer
Traci Duncan, CRNP, a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s of Alabama says, “The most important thing is to know your skin, and be familiar with your moles. Know whether a mole has undergone any kind of recent change, whether it’s in size, shape or color.”
Minimizing Your Risk
- Avoid the strongest sun of the day—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 15 or more)
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover up with long, loose cotton clothing if you burn easily.
- Stay out of the tanning salon. The risk of developing melanoma is eight times greater among people who use tanning beds regularly.
- Regularly check for moles or any changes on your family’s skin
Remember, you don’t have to go without a sun-bronzed look. The new generation of self-tanners and body makeups offer easy, realistic results at a reasonable price. Just be sure to use a daily sunblock with an SPF of at least 15 when you go outdoors since fake tanners don’t protect you against sunburn or sun damage.
For more information on this and other health and safety tips, visit www.childrensal.org.