The Risks of Tanning

Over the last 60 years, pop culture has imposed the idea of beauty throughout movies, TV and advertisements in newspapers and magazines. People associate glowing bronze skin as healthy and admirable, even beautiful. 

One way to achieve that award winning tan is to spend hours enduring the oppressive sun while remaining motionless. Another, more convenient method, areis tanning beds. Tanning beds have become a common way to acquire a quick tan despite the warnings from multiple cancer societies and doctors. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), 35% of American adults have reported using an indoor tanning bed, compared to  59% of college students. A common misconception is that indoor tanning is safer than getting a tan in the sun. However, the truth is that indoor tanning beds directly expose the skin to ultraviolet rays that cause most skin cancers. More specifically, they radiate about 12 times as manyUV rays than natural sunlight.

Research from the AAD shows that more than half of indoor tanners start tanning before the age of 21, while one third start before the age of 18. Young men and women are at the highest risk, since tanning among that demographic is most common. They’ve opted to  believe in the misconception that indoor tanning UV rays are safer than sun tanning. UV rays are dangerous in any form, and are known to cause skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, after just one indoor tanning session, there is a 75% increased risk of developing melanoma. While anyone is at risk of getting skin cancer even after one session, some people can be more at risk than others. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) “a lighter natural skin color, skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, certain types and a large number of moles, a family history of skin cancer and a personal history of skin cancer.” These are a few genealogical traits that could make someone   more vulnerable to skin cancer. 

These days, it is nearly impossible to miss the warnings against tanning beds and the increased risk of cancer. Ultimately, many teens and adults ignore warnings to stay away from indoor tanning. 

Rachel Schippani, a senior at the University of New Haven, said that despite the warnings she has still used tanning beds in the past. 

“I do believe society standards have an effect because tan [equals] skinny and tan [equals] beautiful according to our society,” she said. “And people want to live up to Instagram models and what they see all over social media.”

In addition to skin cancer, tanning ages skin prematurely, in the form of  wrinkles and dark spots. 

Even if you are one of the lucky ones who does not develop melanoma, you still run the risk of developing unsightly features for a quick tan. But don’t despair. There’s always self-tanning lotions and spray tans.