your tanning bed is plotting your demise

Cell phones might not give you cancer, but tanning beds absolutely can and we have proof.
man in tanning bed

Looks like those of us who need a tan will have to find another way to get it. According to oncologists, the ultraviolet radiation used in tanning beds to stimulate the oxidation and production of melanin in our skin is a cancer hazard. When we consider that UV light is mutagenic, that’s hardly surprising. After all, millions of people turned to tanning beds because we know that UVB rays in sunlight can cause skin cancer. The thought was that the UVA rays primarily used in tanning salons are less dangerous, but research in mice exposed to all types of ultraviolet radiation developed really disconcerting mutations. Statistical studies which tracked the occurrence of skin cancer in humans found that people who started using tanning beds before the age of 30, had a 75% greater chance of developing the condition.

Oh the things we do to look attractive. We wear uncomfortable clothing, pierce our flesh with metal and fry our genomes with radioactive byproducts of stellar fusion. Ironically enough, melanin is supposed to be our protection against excessive exposure to sunlight. When we tan, we’re deliberately stressing our body’s defenses to change our skin to another shade of brown, often with little attention to what will happen down the line as we keep subjecting ourselves to continuous UV damage season after season. But don’t expect people now armed with new information about the dangers of long term exposure to ultraviolet light to cut back on their visits just yet.

The primary reason most people get a tan is purely cosmetic and they won’t feel any consequences for years. This is where our personal desires take over, calculating the balance between serious cancer risks in the indeterminate future and looking good at a party next week. And that calculation is probably not going to be a wise one since next week’s get together is usually going to win out. Then there’s going to be another event on the social calendar and it’ll also take precedence over long term health. And another. And another. Skip a few years down the road and suddenly really strange moles start popping up and dermatologists are shaking their heads and taking biopsies while their patients wonder what happened.

Of course, there’s a way out. Instead of using some sort of tanning light, those of us who want a bronzed look could use sunless tanning sprays and lotions which won’t damage your DNA in the process. Sure, you’ll have to apply them on a regular basis and they’ll wear off faster than a UV induced tan but when you consider the risks, maybe going to a tanning salon a few extra times a month is worth the hassle…

# health // cancer / health / radiation / tanning beds


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