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What are some risks of tanning as a teenager?

As a school nurse in a high school, I have seen teenagers prepare themselves for prom and graduation by "tanning" so they will look their best for their special even. Unfortunately,  tanning outdoors or in a tanning bed create problems for teens later on in life (especially if you allow your skin to burn).  Because these damages don't happen right away, many teens don't pay attention to warnings from parents, nurses, and organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization.

Teens' cells are growing at a rapid rate and are at greater risk  to the damages of (UV) rays of tanning beds and the sun. Ultraviolet rays are invisible rays produced by the sun.  Ultraviolet rays have positive benefit, such as helping the skin produce Vitamin D, but overexposure without protection is unhealthy.  Overexposure will give sunburns, which are painful and eventually will peel.  Unknown to many teens is that the damages from sunburn can lead to some very dangerous consequences as you grow older.

Tanning beds have been classified as a human carcinogen (cause cancer) by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer because of the damages caused by UV light. While some salon operators may advertise that their tanning machines are safe, they may give off five times the UVA rays as the sun. UVA causes premature aging of the skin and is also linked to cancer. Unfortunately, the skin is not the only part of your body to experience damage from overexposure to UV light in tanning beds or from the sun. Some other damages are:

  • Damage to the delicate part in your eye, leading to things such as cataract
  • Damage to the underlying tissues of your skin, leading to early wrinkles
  • Increased number of moles on your skin
  • Damage to your immune system, making it easier to get infections

Although it seems as though the worst thing you can get from too much sun or tanning beds is a sunburn, the sunburn is damage to your outer skin cells which can lead to dangerous cancers down the line.

To avoid UV damage, make sure to wear sunblock on exposed skin and UV-protecting sunglasses every day. Have fun in the sun while keeping yourself safe and your skin and eyes healthy!

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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.