The Skin Cancer Foundation - The Dangers of Tanning | Tanning
The dangers of tanning
Ever since Coco Chanel declared tanning "in" in the 1920s, a suntan was seen as symbol of health, youth and status. However, recent studies on the relationship between the sun's ultraviolet rays (UVR) and our skin are changing the way we view that "healthy" glow.
What is tanning?
Tanning is the skin's reaction to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When skin is exposed to UV rays, cells called melanocytes produce the brown pigment melanin, which darkens the cells of the epidermis. This darkening of the skin cells is the skin's natural if imperfect defense against further damage from UV radiation.
Is tanning bad for you?
The sun's UV rays damage the DNA of the skin's epidermal cells, triggering enzymes that race to repair the damage. However, these enzymes do not always repair the DNA successfully, and all this unrepaired damage can lead to mutations that increase the risk of skin cancer. Also, repeated unprotected sun exposure can cause photoaging wrinkles, sagging skin, and spots associated with sun damage.
Does all UV radiation harm my skin?
Scientists dividethe solar UV spectrum into three wavelengths- UVA, UVB and UVC. Once, UVA and UVC were thought harmless, and only UVB was believed dangerous. UVC is still deemed no threat, since it is absorbed by the ozone layer. But UVA accounts for up to 95 percent of solar UVR reaching Earth. Though far less capable of causing sunburn than UVB, UVA is present during all daylight hours year round, while the amount of UVB in sunlight varies by season, location and time of day.
By the 1990's, scientists knew that UVA exacerbates the cancer-causing effects of UVB, and is the main
wavelength behind photoaging. Recently, an Australian-U.S. study found that UVA may be more carcinogenic than UVB. It penetrates more deeply and causes more genetic damage in the skin cells (keratinocytes) where most skin cancers arise. The National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization now designate both UVA and UVB as causes of cancer.
Doesn't the melanin acquired through tanning actually protect my skin?
Darker skin does offer greater protection than light skin against sunburn and skin cancer. However, that applies only to people with naturally
darker skin. Tanning, like sunburns, attacks the skin's DNA, producing genetic defects that may cause skin cancer.
Isn't getting sunburned more dangerous than getting tan?
Both are dangerous, because both result from DNA damage to the skin cells. It is true that sunburn has been directly linked to Cartoon Dolls - Doll maker and Dress up games to dress up dolls and avatars - Making Cartoon Dolls @ TDP
one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence, or five sunburns total over the course of ones life, more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life. It is usually thought that lifetime sun exposure is responsible for increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma
, while both intense, intermittent sun exposure the pattern that is traditionally linked to melanoma and
lifetime exposure are believed to be involved in the development of basal cell carcinoma
. However, studies have also shown a marked increase in melanoma incidence in people who have developed either squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma. Scientists are still trying to determine the exact exposure pattern behind the development of the different types of skin cancer, but it is safe to say that both burning and tanning play major roles in skin cancer.
Are tanning beds safer?
Tanning salon owners say tanning machines are safer than outdoor tanning for two reasons: 1) they mainly use UVA rays, and 2) they offer more "controlled" UV exposure. However, we know now that UVA is a carcinogen, and studies have revealed that tanning salons frequently exceed "safe" UV limits. Study after study has shown that sunbed tanning increases the risk of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.
The facts bear out: There is no such thing as a safe tan. If you want to go brown, your best bet is to invest in a bottle of fake tan. Use sunblock, and try to stay out of the sun during the danger times of noon to 2pm.