The Feds vs. Tanning Beds

tanning-bed-warningThis piece of information may come as no surprise to many of you who have read my blog posts over the years, but I am vehemently opposed to tanning beds.  You’re probably asking yourself, “So what else is new?”  Well, the news is that the Surgeon General agrees with me.

The Surgeon General has just issued a report concerning outdoor and indoor tanning.  The Surgeon General’s office is calling on Americans to do more to help prevent skin damage, saying that it is a growing public health problem.

lushniakAccording to acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, who also happens to be a licensed dermatologist, “Tanned skin is damaged skin. When people get tanned or get sunburned, they increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.”  Both the American Academy of Dermatology and the Department of Health and Human Services have joined the Surgeon General to highlight this call to action to limit ultraviolet light exposure.

About 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer every year at a cost of over $8 billion. Melanoma is obviously of the greatest concern and sadly, its occurrence has tripled over the past 30 years.

However, while the sun and its ultraviolet rays can and do cause skin cancer when the skin is not well-protected, the Surgeon General’s report singles out indoor tanning as particularly dangerous.  For that reason, the FDA has also issued strict guidelines on indoor tanning requiring a warning that they should not be used by anyone younger than 18 years of age.  Despite these warnings, it is estimated that one out of three women aged 16 to 25 engages in indoor tanning each year.

The Surgeon General has made five main points in his research and his call to action:

  1. Individuals need to increase opportunities for sun protection in outdoor recreational settings.  In Lushniak’s own words, “Enjoy the great outdoors, but take steps to protect your skin.”
  2. Companies needs to increase information to consumers about healthy choices with regard to ultraviolet exposure.
  3. The government needs to advance the goal of preventing and not just treating skin cancer by partnering with workplaces, schools and health systems.
  4. Various levels of government need to reduce harm from indoor tanning by enforcing existing laws and considering additional legislative restrictions.
  5. Health officials need to strengthen research and monitoring of effectiveness of sunscreen use and promoting its overall use daily by the public.

tanning-beds-just-say-noI think the report by the Surgeon General is particularly important and highlights the need for the nation as a whole to change its cultural acceptance of tanning as a sign of health.  There may come a day when a person being tanned in a tanning bed will look as out of place as someone standing outside a building smoking a cigarette.

And of course, even though summer is officially over and the days are getting shorter, you still need to apply your sunblock every day.  Also, if you feel that you have to be tanned for a special event, spray tans are very convenient, non-toxic, and look great.

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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