Think before using a tanning bed

Published 7:53 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How often should you get in a tanning bed? Dr. Aubrey Stabler Jr. has the answer to that one.

“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use a tanning bed,” Dr. Aubrey said recently at a presentation on skin cancer for the local hospital’s new Healthy Woman Program.

Contrary to what many believe, tanning beds are not safer than the sun, he explained.

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“The newest studies indicate the UV radiation from indoor tanning beds actually increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent . . . and what makes it even worse is a lot of these folks are now tanning parts of their body they wouldn’t in public. So there’s an even greater chance of developing skin cancer in more areas.”

In Great Britain, it is now illegal for children under 18 years of age to use tanning beds.

I think that’s a pretty smart idea.

According to the results of a survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatologists, younger tanning bed users seem to have the most misconceptions about the safe use of tanning beds.

They are twice as likely as older users to believe tanning beds are safer than sunning outdoors, and more than three times as likely to incorrectly believe tanning beds do not cause skin cancer.

And unfortunately, those of us who are little older and wiser all know when we are young we think we know it all and are going to live forever. Why worry?

However, those hours spent in tanning beds or sunning for hours by the pool or on the beach in our youth may very well come back to haunt us one day, says Dr. Aubrey.

And parents have to take responsibility for their children’s health including the health of their skin, from an early age.

“All those beautiful tanned little babies and toddlers you bring back from the beach-well, you won’t like hearing this, but you are setting them up to develop skin cancers later in life,” he said.

And let’s look at it from a purely cosmetic point of view. Too much UV exposure over the years ages you: more and deeper wrinkles, sunspots, lax skin and more.

And all the makeup, lotions, potions and plastic surgery in the world can’t really undo all that damage.

Now, I and Dr. Aubrey and his fellow members of the medical community are not trying to rain on your parade this summer.

Have fun in the sun; just limit your exposure time to earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. Wear a high SPF sunscreen, put it on your children, and re-apply as needed after sweating or swimming. Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

And as Dr. Aubrey said, if you really want that sun-bronzed look, “go get a fake tan.”

“This isn’t like the days of QT lotion that turned you orange. They can give you spray-on tans nowadays that look really good and are safe,” he said.

There are also over-the-counter products-self-tanners, bronzers, tinted moisturizers and more-that will give you that sun-kissed look without the health hazards.

Remember, a faux tan is the only truly safe tan you can get. Your skin will thank you for it.