Cancer risks may keep some students at bay from tanning beds

February 21, 2008

by Lyndsey Lovelady

It is not news to tanning enthusiasts that extended exposure to certain ultra-violet rays are harmful. However, many brush the warnings aside and continue to lather on the lotion.

Sarah Haydel, a board certified dermatologist of Haydel Dermatology located at 1026 School St. in Houma, said the damage is caused by two types of light.

“The danger of a tanning bed is that they have two different wavelengths of light that are hitting you: the ultra-violet A and the ultra-violet B,” Dr. Haydel said.
“The UVA is the one that goes deep into your skin and that’s the one that makes people more likely to get melanoma as well as the other forms of skin cancer.”

Dr. Haydel said natural sunlight is actually the healthy alternative to artificial tanning.

“It’s probably better probably to get natural sunlight because the UVB wavelengths are what usually burn and since the tanning salons don’t want to burn people, the tanning beds mainly use the UVA bulbs,” she said.
“So I tell people when they go to the tanning bed they are strictly getting the melanoma rays whereas if you get natural sunlight, you get a little bit of both.”

Dr. Haydel said those with fair skin should be especially wary of artificial tanning and also shot down one burning myth among devoted tan fans.

“It’s not true that [pre-tanning] protects you from burns if you have a little bit of color,” she said. “When you get a tan in a tanning bed, the light brown color that you see is actually induced sun damage. So when you go out and you get more sun I think it’s just not as apparent because the sun damage is already there.”

Dr. Haydel said one blistering sunburn puts people at a much higher risk of developing a melanoma and even just one natural sunburn could be disastrous.

“One time in a tanning bed could trigger a mole to turn bad or trigger a new skin cancer to form,” she said.
“So definitely wear an SPF of 30 or higher and try to find one that is a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen which means it covers for the UVA and the UVB. It’s is kind of a new trend, but that’s what they mean when they say ‘broad spectrum.'”

Dr. Haydel also had some shocking news to warn students about: People can become “tanorexic”: addicted to tanning.

“Sunlight in general improves mood so I think some people go to the tanning bed because it does release chemicals in the brain that makes them feel more relaxed or better about themselves. It almost becomes an addiction like smoking could be because you can get addicted to feeling better afterwards,” she said.
“I think young people in general think they’re invincible; they just don’t think about the long term consequences.”