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The Tanning Bed Toll: November 29, 2012

The price of beauty. College co-ed Lindsey Kempa used to pay for tanning.

“I had a membership to a few tanning places around here. To me, tanning is more of an aesthetic thing,” says Lindsey Kempa, former tanner.

The look may be more costly than she counted on. New studies found at least 170,000 cases of skin cancer each year are linked to tanning beds.

“People who use sun tan beds typically use them year round, so the tendency to use and get exposed to UVB radiation year round as opposed to just seasonally makes it more dangerous,” says Dr. Drew Kreegel, plastic surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

The survey also shed light on what type of cancers indoor tanners are getting.  Twenty-nine percent were more likely to develop the least threatening form, basil cell carcinoma. What’s troubling is they were 67percent more likely to get the more serious squamous-cell carcinoma, compared with those who never tanned indoors. And their tanned tone is working against them.

“That blotchiness that some people develop after sun exposure and deep tanning can cover up the redness that many early skin cancers or even more advanced skin cancers can develop. That could obscure the detection of the skin cancer,” says Dr. Kreegel.

People who start tanning indoors before age 25 face the highest cancer risk. No surprise because they are more likely to be overexposed, accumulating years of harmful rays.

“It’s just not as much of a reality to younger people but that’s where a large amount of the original damage, that ultimately causes skin cancer, occurs,” says Dr. Kreegel.

“It just seems silly to keep using beds over and over again to achieve a look when in the long term you can have skin cancer, you can have wrinkled skin. I’m all for spray tanning. I think it’s a much better way,” says Kempa.

When you look at the facts in the light of day, the fake bake may not be as pretty, years down the road.