Newsletter XIV - Dangers of Tanning Beds

January is, unfortunately, a busy month for the tanning bed industry. Cold, gloomy weather combined with a need to feel fashionable seems to drive many to use these devastating devices.

Ironically, the rapid expansion of the tanning bed industry over the past ten years (it is now a $5 billion industry) has been fueled by the growing evidence that overexposure to the sun can be deadly. The UVB rays of the sun were thought to be the most damaging, so the tanning industry responded by creating bulbs designed to give off 90 to 95 % UVA and only 5 to 10 % UVB. The misperception is that because UVA does not burn, it does no harm.

In fact, UVA rays increase the risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. In May 2000 the National Toxicology Program, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, added sun lamps and tanning beds to the list of known human carcinogens. Despite this official statement about tanning beds and cancer, the number of people still using them continues to rise.

While 70% of tanning bed users are adult women, every year more than 2 million teenagers in the United States visit tanning salons. Consequently, skin cancers are showing up at much younger ages. Three states - Texas, Illinois and Wisconsin - currently have laws to keep children from using tanning beds. And a Coolibar survey conducted in February 2005 found that 76% of American dermatologists would be in favor of a tax on tanning salons in order to fund sun protection education programs in schools.

However, until more state legislators understand the need to provide protection, it is up to you. Do not use tanning beds! Teach your children, especially teens, about the dangers of tanning beds - that tanning beds cause irreversible damage to skin and to the immune system.

And remember, when outside be sunAWARE.