Spring Breakers Beware
As the universities and secondary schools are
preparing for spring break, it is important that we are educated and educate
our young patients on the dangers of ultraviolet exposure. I am going to focus
this blog more specifically towards the use of tanning beds.
As a dermatology specialist and a parent, I find it
unconscionable that children under the age of 18 can still access and utilize
tanning beds. It is even more disturbing that parents consent for their minor
children to lay in these cancer boxes and put their lives at risk. I am very
passionate about this issue and hopefully when I lay out the disturbing facts
about tanning beds, you as providers will be as well. If you use tanning beds,
stop! If you allow your children to use them, shame on you and...stop!!!
Why did I choose this month for this topic? Now is a
big time for tanning companies. As our children, including college aged
students, prepare to go to the warmer climates for spring break, many of them
go to tanning beds to get that "base tan." They don't want go to the beaches all
pale and "chalky" looking. They also use the excuse that they don't want to get
a burn when they go lay out in the sun.
I am going to give you the short version of what I
tell my patients and their parents when they come in tanned, let alone when
they admit to tanning bed use. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. The
skin does not produce melanin as an indictor of how healthy it is. It produces
melanin to protect itself from the assault of ultraviolet radiation. In
essence, a tan is just a sign that someone has received excess radiation.
The notion that tanning beds are safer than natural
light because they don't use UVB light is ridiculous. The UVA that is utilized
by tanning beds is less likely to burn you because it penetrates through the
top layers of the skin. It is more likely to cause melanoma though, because it
stimulates the melanocytes to produce more melanin.
So, UVA radiation will not burn you, it will kill
you. In support of this fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer,
a research arm of the World Health Organization, developed a comprehensive list
of carcinogens. On this list, tanning beds are in its most dangerous category,
"carcinogenic to humans." Furthermore they found that risk of developing
melanoma is 75% higher for individuals who use tanning beds before the age of
30 compared to those who never used a tanning bed.
The tanning industry should be put in the same
category as tobacco. No minors should be allowed to use them. It should be
taxed at the same rates as tobacco products to aid in education and prevention
of melanoma. Parents who allow their children to tan in these devices should be
charged with endangering the welfare of a minor in the same way someone who
buys alcohol or tobacco for a child is charged.
I will close with what I tell my college age daughter
before she goes out. Don't do anything stupid that's gonna get yourself killed.
Have fun at spring break. Wear your sun-block. Reapply every two hours. Try to
avoid the sun from 11am-2pm. STAY OUT OF TANNING BEDS!