Dear OHW Magazine,
Many of my friends are planning sunny vacations this winter, and some are talking about getting a base tan before they go. I know that tanning bed use is a controversial subject and wonder if you can provide some information on this and other ways to prepare for the hot sun.
This is indeed a timely question and to answer it, we turned to resources from the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, and the US-based Skin Cancer Foundation.
Here’s their take:
There’s little evidence to support the idea that a base tan protects you against sunburn. Tanning beds don’t offer a safe alternative to natural sunlight. A few sessions of indoor tanning will not prevent you from burning in the sun. A base tan is no substitute for good sun protection. Plus, the risks of long-term tanning outweigh the unproven benefits of a base tan.
The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation strongly recommends avoiding the use of artificial tanning beds.
There is a growing body of evidence to indicate a strong link between indoor tanning and skin cancer:
- In 2009 the World Health Organization designated tanning beds “carcinogenic to humans,” the strongest classification for cancer-causing substances. Other carcinogens in the same category include tobacco, arsenic, and asbestos.
- First exposure to sunbeds before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.
- Having used a sunbed even once is associated with increased risk of melanoma by 15%.
- Tanning beds have ultraviolet (UV) doses well above what would be expected in midday sun, as much as 14 times higher UVA and 4 times higher UVB.
A recent analysis of tanning beds and vitamin D found that most tanning devices emit primarily UVA, which is relatively ineffective in stimulating vitamin D synthesis. The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation recommends dietary supplements as an economical and safe way to obtain vitamin D. Tanning beds should not be considered a safe way to get vitamin D.
*Reprint from our Fall 2017 Issue.