Everybody Doing It Doesn’t Make It Right (Or Safe)

I know that many of you may think that I have a serious problem with indoor tanning.  You would be correct.

I read an article online today entitled “Despite rising melanoma rates, teens’ tanning for prom still the norm“.  The article itself was particularly aggravating and frustrating, but not because it was poorly written.  It outlined the fact that teens using indoor tanning beds to “get some color” for the prom persists despite well-known, well-documented risk factors.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that the incidence of melanoma in young adults has soared sixfold in the past 40 years.  The most spectacular increase was in young women ages 18-39, where melanoma increased eightfold.

One of the authors of the study told NBC News that all correlations point toward tanning beds as the reason for this increase.  “The number one thing [to do to prevent melanoma]= stop going to tanning beds!” said dermatologist Dr. Jerry Brewer.

We are not talking about sunspots and wrinkling here.  We are talking about a deadly, but thoroughly preventable, form of cancer.

In even more shocking news, the Indoor Tanning Association responded by stating that “there is no consensus among researchers regarding the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and UV exposure either from the sun or a sunbed.”  That dubious response has got to rate right up there with the tobacco companies denying smoking as cause of lung cancer.

Some teenagers are pushing back, however.  The same article did cite a number of teenage girls who were avoiding tanning for health reasons, especially where there was a family history of skin cancer.

In Maine, a group of students at Carrabec High School signed a pledge to avoid tanning before the school prom, and donate the money they would otherwise spend on indoor tanning to skin cancer research.  Some states have been making efforts to limit indoor tanning for teens.  California prohibits indoor tanning for all customers under the age of 18, and at least 7 other states are considering similar bans.

As always, my mantra is protect your skin with sunblock.  Your skin is your biggest organ and it also exposed to multiple assaults from the environment that are cumulative over time.

If you want color for a big day, get a spray tan.  They are not harmful to you at all, except maybe when you open your eyes while it is being applied.  I will discuss other benefits of spray tanning in a later post.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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