Tanning Beds and Cancer Link

tanning-bedRecently, there was a press release sent out to the media to confirm the link between tanning bed use and cancer risk. Tanning beds are now said to be just as cancer-causing as smoking, something that maybe doesn’t come as a complete shock, but certainly has shaken the tanning business and it’s fake bakers. Here’s what you need to know on the matter:

Below are two articles from respected sources reporting on the tanning bed press release:

US News-Tanning Beds Blamed for Cancer

Bloomberg- Tanning Beds Are Deemed as Certain to Cause Cancer as Smoking

What’s in a tanning bed bulb – how does it work?
Tanning bulbs come in high and low pressure forms, depending on how much power is desired for use. High pressure bulbs contain mercury in order to function correctly, and currently there is no known safer alternative. As a result, these bulbs need to be disposed of in accordance with certain regulations. Here is a great explanation from Virginia’s state government website.

Fluorescent tanning lamps require what’s called an electrical ballast to provide power, making them more like a neon sign or plasma TV than a regular household light bulb. There is not a filament (like in a regular light bulb) inside these tanning bulbs to restrict the amount of power outputted.

Most tanning lamps produce much more UV than the sun on a typical day. This gives the user a faster base tan, but one that fades faster and offers less protection from the sun than a natural tan. Large amounts of heat are also generated by these bulbs, especially if they are new. Heat can be just as detrimental to the skin and to internal organs for different reasons. That is why it is commonly recommended that clients and patients refrain from excessive heat after certain aesthetic services like peels and laser treatments.

UVA, UVB, and UVC…the good, the bad and the ugly:
Tanning bed companies like to promote the fact that they filter out harmful UVC (cancer causing)rays and most of the less harmful UVB (burning rays). This is not an exact truth. Low pressure tanning bulbs may filter out UVC…but not all high pressure bulbs can do this.
The most common tanning bulb used is the 400 watt variety(high-pressure) – and is also commonly used as an added face tanner in the traditional tanning bed. High pressure lamps use quartz glass which cannot filter out UVC rays on its own. UVC rays are known to be very dangerous, even deadly, so a special purple glass is required for use with high pressure bulbs in order to help filter out UVC and most of the UVB – leaving UVA only. The goal with high pressure tanning bulbs is to produce an ultra high amount of UVA rays which promote skin tanning, without the exposure to the more harmful rays mentioned above.

Alternatives to the tanning bed (or as I like to call it, the human microwave machine.)

Spray Tan – want the glow of a tan without the damaging effects? Spray tanning has gained such popularity that it is now more of an art form than an alternative. Professional spray tanners can now even give you a six pack of abs or more defined looking muscles in your legs.

The Sun – now don’t get me wrong, I am a believer in sun protection like any good esthetician. However, in moderation sun exposure helps the body generate Vitamin D – an important nutrient in keeping healthy bones, and keeping certain neurotransmitters in the brain happy. The best times of day to get safer sun are mornings and evenings, as the sun is not quite as strong at these times. UV rays are absorbed by the skin (mostly on the shoulders and upper back) and used to boost Vitamin D production in the body. Hours of sunbathing is not needed in order to achieve proper levels of Vitamin D – just enough time to get the skin a teeny bit pink (not burned.) Of course, use of natural sun-blocking ingredients like zinc oxide is highly recommended throughout the day in order to protect the skin from overexposure to the sun.

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2 replies
  1. Boshena
    Boshena says:

    It is amazing what you can find if you really start digging. So many industries withhold information from their clients just so they can make some money?
    I did not know about effects of those different rays, only what I was told by the tanning bed industry. But of course they are biased.

    I have never tanned in the solarium and I spent half of my life in northern Europe where there is not much sun. Now I live in Australia. I get complemented on my skin very often and people are always surprised to find out my age. That is because my skin is clear and wrinkle free.
    Go spray tanning – it is sooooo worth it to stay away from all UV rays.

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