Tanning Beds No Holiday Gift for Your Skin

Try healthier self-tanners instead before that office party, experts urge

FRIDAY, Dec. 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- While many people like to get a tan because they think it makes them look their best during holiday celebrations and vacations, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) wants to remind people that indoor tanning is always dangerous.

An AAD survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults found that 69 percent of male and 61 percent of female respondents said they believed that people look better with a tan. The survey also found that 60 percent of men and 54 percent of women thought that tans make a person look "healthy."

This common belief that tans make people look better explains why so many people go to tanning salons in the fall and winter. Each day, about a million Americans visit tanning salons. But this short-term boost to self image comes at a cost in the long term, experts warn.

"Indoor tanning is an unnecessary activity. While it produces a temporary cosmetic effect, it can cause long-term health problems," Dr. Arielle N.B. Kauvar, associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most preventable cause of skin cancer. Self-tanning products are a safe alternative way to get the cosmetic effect," Kauvar said.

Research has shown a connection between indoor tanning and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the second most common form of cancer in American women ages 20 to 29, the AAD said.

Despite evidence about the dangers of indoor tanning, the industry actually tries to promote it as something that's beneficial. That's because exposure to UV light triggers the body to produce vitamin D, which may reduce the risk for cancer and other diseases.

"Because vitamin D can be produced through exposure to UV light, some people may think that they have to have exposure to the sun or a tanning lamp to produce optimal amounts of the nutrient," Kauvar said.

"But there are safe ways to get vitamin D each day -- drinking a couple of glasses of vitamin-D fortified milk or orange juice, eating salmon or mackerel and other foods rich in vitamin D, or taking a supplement -- that do not pose a health risk like tanning does," Kauvar said.

In an effort to educate people about the dangers of indoor tanning, the AAD recently launched a public education campaign that features television, radio and print advertisements.

More information

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission discusses false advertising claims about indoor tanning.

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, December 2006
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