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Indoor Tanning: Is It Safe? - Topic Overview

What is indoor tanning?

When people use a tanning bed or booth or a sunlamp to get a tan, it's called indoor tanning. Indoor tanning uses artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light, rather than sunlight, to tan the skin.

Is indoor tanning safe?

People may feel that a tan makes them look good and that a tan looks "healthy." But recent research has found that being exposed to the light from tanning beds isn't as safe as it might seem.

The light from a tanning device can cause skin cancer. Tanning devices are linked to basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and the most serious type of cancer, melanoma. Indoor tanning, especially if used before age 35, increases your risk for all these skin cancers.

And indoor tanning harms you in other ways as well. It can:

  • Cause skin damage, including wrinkling at a younger age than normal.
  • Make your immune system weaker.
  • Damage your eyes.
  • Give you a rash, if you are sensitive to sunlight.

Do children and teens have a special risk?

Most of us have stayed out in the sun too long and gotten a sunburn at some point in our lives. But when this happens during childhood or the teen years, it can increase the risk for melanoma later in life.

And because of the risk for skin cancer, medical experts recommend that children 18 and younger not use indoor tanning at all. Some states have made it illegal for children 18 and younger to use indoor tanning.

Why do people use indoor tanning?

Even though indoor tanning isn't safe, some people still use it. But their reasons may not be valid.

  • People may believe that indoor tanning can give them a "base tan" that protects them from getting a sunburn while outdoors. But a tan is how your skin responds to injury—getting a tan is a sign that your skin has already been damaged.
  • People may believe that they can avoid sunburn by using indoor tanning. But if you stay under the artificial light too long or at too high an intensity, you can get a sunburn.
  • People may say they use indoor tanning to get vitamin D in the winter, when there is less sunlight. You can do this, but you can get vitamin D from a healthy diet or a vitamin supplement and avoid the risk of cancer.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

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