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5 Scary Facts About Tanning Beds

Alarming new facts reveal tanning bed dangers that you'll wish you'd known sooner

By Aviva Patz

WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

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This might ring a bell: "You only get the healthy rays in tanning beds," or "Tanning beds give you a 'base tan' to keep you from burning." The tanning-salon industry wooed many of us with these marketing claims when UVA rays — the ones tanning machines mainly use — were thought to be safe and only UVB rays from the sun were believed to be harmful.

Since then, we've grown wiser. Definitive research has now proven that both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. (UVA rays have been specifically linked to melanoma.) Still, about 30 million people go tanning every year, about 70 percent of whom are young women. Tanning salons outnumber even Starbucks and McDonalds in some of the largest U.S. cities, according to a San Diego State University study.

Still don't want to kick the habit? Here's why you must kiss the bed good-bye:

  1. Your risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when you use tanning beds before the age of 35.
  2. Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer shifted indoor tanning devices to the highest cancer risk category: "carcinogenic to humans." (They were formerly classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans.")
  3. Tanning can be addictive. For some people, UV radiation can have a druglike effect; they feel dependent on it and can experience withdrawal symptoms, says David Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.
  4. Not only are tanning-bed users more vulnerable to melanoma, they're also 2½ times more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and 1½ times more susceptible to basal cell carcinoma.
  5. Starting this July, you're going to pay a 10-percent tax every time you slip into the tanning booth.

Originally published on July 11, 2010

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