Soaking In The Message

As a student of medical and dermatological literature, I am always reviewing medical journals for information of interest to my patients.  I recently came across an article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology that was published on May 15th of this year (2017).

The article covered trends in the use of indoor tanning, and it turns out that the writers had good news to report.  The biggest take home message from the article was that, from 2010 to 2015, the number of U.S. adults using tanning beds decreased by a third.

That news even surprised me.  33% fewer American adults are using tanning beds than just a few years ago?  That’s incredible!

The researchers in this study analyzed data from a health interview survey of over 25 million American adults over 18 years old.  Included in the survey were questions about indoor tanning, sunburns, and outdoor sun exposure.

In 2010, 8.6% of all American women and 2.2% of all American men reported to have used indoor tanning beds.  These percentages dropped to 5.2% and 1.6% respectively in 2015.

Unfortunately, white, non-Hispanic women remain the top demographic group in terms of tanning bed use.  However, even they reduced their use from 31.8% in 2010 down to 20.4% in 2015.

One unfortunate piece of data detailed that many of these young, white, non-Hispanic females reported that they were introduced to tanning beds by their own mothers!  We can only hope that those reported do not pass on this bad advice to their own daughters.

You might be saying to yourself, “Sure, those are adults surveyed, but what about children and teenagers?”  Perhaps even more striking was the reduction in indoor tanning for adolescents that dropped more than 50% over that 5-year period.

Another interesting highlight is that indoor tanning is linked to increased risk of sunburns.  Technically speaking, first-degree burn is a more accurate term for burns your skin receives from a tanning booth, considering that it’s not an actual sunburn if your skin is burned by a tanning booth.

41% of indoor tanners admitted to having had at least one first-degree burn during the year.  77% of white women 18-29 years old also reported a first-degree burn over that period.

In addition, 6.7% of tanning bed users experienced their burn from the indoor tanning itself, not from the sun (hence the more accurate term of first-degree burn).  The article researchers hypothesized that the reason that indoor tanning bed users have a higher risk of such a burn may be due to their general tan-seeking behavior.

The hope is that this downward trend will decrease the long-term risk for skin cancers such as deadly melanoma and for photoaging in the future.  Still, despite all the public information out there about the dangers of indoor tanning, this habit appears to persist due to some common misconceptions routine indoor tanners appear to have.

For instance, many of those who received a sunburn during the year thought that they were protected by having a “base tan”.  WRONG!  There is no such thing as a safe tan.  The concept of a “base tan” is not real and frankly unsafe.

Another common misconception is that tanning beds are safer than getting your tan outside.  WRONG AGAIN!  Ultraviolet radiation is ultraviolet radiation no matter the source, and all UV radiation is bad for your skin.

For many, it is difficult to give up the concept of tanned skin, as people have historically associated it with healthy and relaxed lifestyles.  However, the medical and scientific evidence about the unhealthy effects of tanning are right up there with the association of smoking with lung disease.

Especially with the summer here,  don’t forget to wear your sunglasses, use your sunscreen, and avoid sunbathing (even under the real sun).  If you want the glow of a tan, use self-tanners or spray tanning, all of which have improved significantly over the past several years.

As I have often said, while I have the technologies here at Maine Laser Skin Care to correct many of the bad effects of tanning such as wrinkling and age spots, I still fundamentally believe that prevention is the best medicine.  I am encouraged by the reduction in tanning bed use, but we have a long way to go, especially with Caucasian women still at 20% usage!

If you have sustained skin damage of any kind, either from the sun, from a tanning booth, or any other factor, and you would like to know if correction is possible, please call us at (207) 873-2158.  You can schedule a free and confidential consultation with us where we use photo and live analysis of your skin.  We are here to help.

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