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Want a ‘”base tan?” Tanning beds are not the answer

Contributed by W. John Kitzmiller, MD, Professor of Surgery; Chief, Division of Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery/Burn Surgery

ThinkstockPhotos-139523569Vacation season is here! Your checklist seems like it’s a mile-long – shop for swimsuit, pack suitcase, confirm travel arrangements and get some “color” to avoid getting sunburned. Stop right there! Getting a “base tan” needs to be removed from your checklist. Why? Tanning beds are one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation, according to the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC). In fact, the IARC has found as many as 90 percent of melanomas are caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure. This includes exposure from the sun and from artificial sources, such as tanning beds.

Why are tanning beds so dangerous?

Tanning beds emit three to six times the amount of radiation given off by the sun. This means that using a bed or a booth for 20 minutes translates into one to three hours of lying out at the beach without any sunscreen protection. In 2009, The World Health Organization moved tanning beds into the highest cancer risk category—carcinogenic to humans. And in several states, including Ohio, the use of tanning beds among minors is banned unless a parent is present to a sign a consent form.

How can I get a “base tan” without using a tanning bed?

Bronzers in the form of powders and moisturizers, once applied, create a tan that can easily be removed with soap and water. More like make-up, these products tint or stain your skin only until they are washed off. And to better your skin health overall, incorporate orange juice, milk, fish, and supplements into your diet as alternative sources of Vitamin D, and avoid prolonged periods of time in the sun without sunscreen protection. Finally, the Women’s Center offers a variety of skincare services to help keep you looking young and healthy.

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