Are tanning beds more dangerous than spending time the sun?

Tanning beds work by emitting UV radiation, the same UV radiation that is produced by the sun, so using a tanning bed is not a way to protect your skin. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as well as other types of skin cancer. Studies have shown that the risk of malignant melanoma rises with regular use of tanning beds, and, in fact, a 2014 study found that the number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, even occasional use of tanning beds before 30 can increase a person’s risk of melanoma by 75 percent. The National Cancer Institute states that “the incidence of pediatric melanoma (under the age of 20) increased by an average of 2 percent per year between 1973 and 2009. The increased incidence was especially notable in females between the ages of 15 and 19 years,” a demographic that commonly frequents tanning beds in order to get a “base tan” and avoid a sunburn.

According to the CDC this is a common and dangerous misconception as a tan is the body’s response to injury from UV rays, showing that damage has been done, not a protection from future damage. All tanned skin is damaged skin.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273,, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

The Burning Truth - CDC

Unusual Cancers: Childhood – National Cancer Institute

The Skin Cancer Foundation – Tanning

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.