Tanning Bed vs. Sun: Which is More Dangerous?

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Looking for a killer tan? Well, if you’re actively seeking an unnatural glow, with the use of a tanning bed or the help of the sun, you could be getting just that. According to the American Cancer Society, over 3.5 million people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States each year. This doesn’t include the 70,000 diagnosed cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Skin cancer is most commonly caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from either tanning beds or natural sunlight.

Even though we know that UV rays are the primary cause of skin related cancers, individuals still choose to expose themselves on a regular basis. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 63% of teenagers believe they look better with a tan. They also report that 28% of female teens and 14% of male teens say they never use sunblock. With spring break and prom on the horizon, we want to shed some light to illuminate the dangers of tanning, both indoors and out.

Tanning beds vs. sun. Which is healthier?

Forgive us, but that’s a trick question. The answer is neither. The “healthy glow” from tanning is an indication of skin damage from ultraviolet rays. When our skin is damaged by UV rays, pigment called melanin causes our skin to change to a tan color. The healthiest of glows is your natural skin color.

Outdoor Sun Tanning - Even though it’s natural, exposure to sunlight is still damaging to your skin. One bad sunburn can more than double an individual's chances of developing skin cancer. Avoid the sun midday when the rays are the strongest.

Tanning Beds - Some tanning advocates insist that indoor tanning is a healthy source of vitamin D and is much better than outdoor tanning. This is simply not the case. Both indoor and outdoor tanning causes damage to our skin. Tanning beds emit roughly 12 times more UVA light than natural sunlight.

Side effects from tanning

Increased risk of skin cancer

  • Non-Melanoma - this refers to all forms of skin cancer that are not melanoma. The most common non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Melanoma - Cancer of the skin that develops in the cells called melanocytes. These cells produce the pigment that gives our skin its color. This is the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Premature skin aging

  • wrinkles 
  • leather-like skin
  • sun spots

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

If we haven’t already made it clear, limiting UV ray exposure is the best thing you can do to lower your risk of skin cancer. Here are some tips to prevent skin damage that can lead to cancer:

  • Avoid direct sunlight in the hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
  • Do NOT use tanning beds.
  • Use sunscreen if the sun's rays are unavoidable. 
  • Wear light protective layers to cover skin such as long sleeve tops, hats and sunglasses.

How to Obtain a Healthy “Glow”

Unfortunately, most individuals think that tan skin is the healthiest looking. By shedding light on some of the dangers that coincide with tanning, we hope to change individual's perceptions of “healthy skin.” As we stated before, a healthy glow is a natural glow. Our biggest, and only recommended tip to help you achieve this natural glow will come as no surprise:

Wear Sunscreen

We know you’ve heard it a million times, but one of the best things you can do for you skin is to wear SPF each day. If you’re already in the habit of using a face and body lotion each day, then this will be an easy transition. Simply start using a lotion with at least SPF 30 to protect yourself all day long. This also goes for the winter months when the sun's rays can be just as intense as in summer.

For more information on the dangers of UV rays and tips to prevent skin cancer, contact the experts at John Stoddard Cancer Center!