Nearly 2.3 million teenagers in the U.S. tan indoors annually, and with prom season right around the corner, the temptation to tan is even greater. But new research has found that the use of sunbeds during a person's teens and 20s is linked to an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conducted a thorough review of several studies associating tanning bed use and melanoma risk. The researchers showed that the use of sunbeds by people under the age of 35 can increase melanoma risk by 75 percent.
It clearly increases the risk of skin cancer, especially in young women, who are the biggest users, said Dr. Perry Robins, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
If the threat of melanoma isn't enough to scare teens away from tanning booths, they should know that 90 percent of visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UV tanning accelerates the signs of aging, including wrinkles, leathering and fine lines, which can be seen as early as in one's 20s. Yet many teens will still desire a bronzed glow for the prom. One safe alternative is so-called sunless tanners, also known as self-tanning lotions.
Sunless tanners deliver a perfectly safe tan that typically lasts for three to five days. Unlike tanning beds, they don't involve dangerous ultraviolet rays and are made with completely harmless common ingredients. For a list of recommended products that will give you a sunless glow, check The Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation list at www.skincancer.org.
Don't be misled by products that sound like self-tanning lotions, such as tanning amplifiers, tan accelerators, tanning promoters, tanning enhancers, and worst of all, tanning pills. Many of these products interact with the sun to create the tan, so they actually end up exacerbating the damage done to your skin.
Be sure to wear sunscreen. Even if a sunless tanner is SPF-rated, the sun-protective abilities won't last longer than two hours. So remember to apply an SPF 15 (or higher) sunscreen in addition to the self-tanner.