Addicted to Tanning?
Regardless of background or philosophy, practitioners representing virtually every form of healthcare (Western Medicine and many of the different branches of alternative/complementary healthcare) agree that excessive exposure to UV rays should be avoided due to the risk of developing different types of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma).
Are small amounts of indoor tanning safe?
The indoor tanning industry has fought back over the years, claiming that only the UVB rays (short “burning rays”) increase skin cancer risk; and indoor tanning products (tanning beds, tanning lamps, tanning booths, etc) only use the UVA (long (tanning rays”), therefore there is no risk. However, several experts and findings from recent studies have now come to the conclusion that even the UVA rays that cause the skin to tan, not burn, can cause skin cancer.
During my recent interview with Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation, I learned that when UVA rays hit the skin, they damage the DNA of the melanocytes (cells found in the deepest layer of the epidermis that produce the body’s melanin pigment), which sends them a message and causes them to produce more melanin pigment to protect the skin from additional damage. This emergency response, that so many people consider to be a desirable skin tone, is a tan.
Additionally, David Fisher, MD, PhD, chief of Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School states that there is no such thing as a safe tan, since a tan would not exist if DNA damage had not occurred. "Darkening of the skin is caused by damaging DNA. This is the same process by which cancer cells develop…if there is a tan there has to be DNA damage, and with that comes the risk of skin cancer.”
Why do people keep tanning when they know it causes harm?
The same question can be asked of cigarette smokers, as well as people who abuse alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or other substances. The answer is because they may be addicted. Tim Turnham also noted that in addition to sending messages to the melanocytes to produce more pigment cells for protection, when UV rays hit the skin’s surface they also “start a cascade effect which causes the body to create endorphins, leading to a euphoric response” similar to the one generated by other addictive substances. This causes many tanners to become physically addicted to the UV exposure.Continued on the next page