The Cold Hard Facts About Tanning Beds
Millions of Americans enjoy outdoor activities and the resulting sun-kissed glow of a summer tan. Since spring will soon be here, we know that many of you will feel compelled to go to a tanning salon to “just get a little color”. While there is no such thing as a “safe tan”, the skin damage and possibility of skin cancer caused from indoor tanning is far greater than natural sunlight due to the concentrated bursts of UV light. Johns Creek Dermatology, serving patients in South Forsyth, Gwinnett and North Fulton counties and the surrounding North Atlanta area, practices all facets of medical dermatology and recommends an annual full skin exams to identify any unusual skin changes or lesions caused by sun exposure or tanning bed use.
Tanning Bed Controversy
In the mid-1980s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), began regulating tanning beds as a Class I (low-risk) device, putting them in the same category as bandages and tongue depressors! Tanning salons were only required to have timers, warning labels, and protective eyewear.
The FDA recommended that people limit their tanning sessions to three per week. Due to a large spike in reported skin cancer cases and indoor tanning usage, the FDA decided to inforce tighter restrictions and began regulating tanning beds in order to save lives and slow down the increasing rate of melanoma.
By reclassifying tanning beds as Class II (moderate risk) devices, tanning salons are now required to demonstrate properly maintained equipment. Bed and lamp manufacturers are required to show that their products meet certain performance testing requirements. In addition, manufactured products must carry a visible black-box warning on the device that explicitly states that the sunlamp product should not be used on persons under the age of 18. In addition, certain marketing materials for sunlamp products and UV lamps must include additional and specific warning statements and contraindications. A black box is the FDA’s strongest warning, this does not outlaw or restrict these devices for minors.
Types of Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the CDC estimates that 65 to 90 percent of those tumors are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light or sunlight. Like the sun, tanning beds produce UVA and UVB rays, as well as Vitamin D. Most tanning beds emit about 95 percent UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the skin and give that bronzed look that many people find attractive, and 5 percent UVB rays, which hit the top layers and are most responsible for sunburns. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tanning beds are many times stronger than the midday summer sun in most countries and are therefore more dangerous.
Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are sometimes called nonmelanoma skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 90 percent of all skin cancers in the United States and is the most common of all cancers. Typically, it is a slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads to other parts of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma also rarely spreads, but does so more often than basal cell carcinoma. It is important that skin cancers are found and treated early because they can invade and destroy nearby tissue leaving patients with serious physical scars.
There many healthy options for creating a natural-looking tan on the market today including sunless tanning lotions, airbrushing, towelettes, and cosmetic bronzers. It is important to remember that with any of these options, sunscreen should always be used when outdoors. We carry a variety of pharmaceutical grade product lines with excellent sunscreens, such as Revision Intellishade. Dr. Timani treats skin cancers and specializes in dermatopathology to accurately diagnose skin eruptions and cancers through the examination of skin biopsies. If you have experienced skin damage from tanning, there are professional treatments that can help rejuvenate your skin. Contact Johns Creek Dermatology for a consultation or examination today. Our office is located in Johns Creek servicing individuals from South Forsyth, Gwinnett, North Fulton, and North Atlanta.