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What are some risks of using a tanning bed?

Audrey Kunin, MD
Dermatology
Here are some of the risks one takes by getting as tan from a tanning bed:
  • Skin Cancer: You're looking at a 75% increased risk in skin cancer, including malignant melanoma, from frequenting tanning beds. All of my melanoma patients in their 20s have been young women who frequented tanning parlors.
  • Wrinkles: Your skin will prematurely age, and wrinkles become more exaggerated if you go to a tanning bed. Why hasten the onset of wrinkles by working on your tan?
  • Decreased Immunity: Ultraviolet light, particularly ultraviolet-A (UVA), diminishes the ability of the T cell to function appropriately. That's one of the reasons medical UVA is used in the treatment of such severe skin diseases as T cell lymphoma and generalized psoriasis. But do you really want to decrease your body's ability to fight infection or early forming cancer? It may seem strange but skin cancer is caused by two events caused by UVA light. The cellular deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage and the reduced immune system ability to destroy these early cancer cells.
  • Skin Texture: If you want your skin to be weathered, lined and leathery later in life, the tanning bed is the way to go. There's a reason our great grandmothers tried to avoid the sun, wore their bonnets and took milk baths. They were trying to keep their skin soft and youthful.
  • Formation of Superficial Blood Vessels: Years of sun damage are often the reason baby boomers notice those fine "broken" blood vessels (really telangiectasias). Many may blame rosacea but the truth is that sun damage is a far more likely culprit.
  • Skin Discoloration: You may be on hormones, you may be pregnant, but you're not going to develop melasma and freckles without the main component: sunlight. Increase the intensity and voilà, you've got blotchy skin.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.