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Indoor tanning

Indoor tanning equipment, such as tanning beds or sun lamps, can cause cancer. These devices give off ultraviolet radiation (UVR), which is a known cancer-causing substance (carcinogen). UVR causes cataractscataractsA cloudy area on or within the lens of the eye that reduces vision. Symptoms of cataracts include blurred, cloudy or double vision, sensitivity to light and difficulty seeing at night. and skin damage, including sunburns, premature skin aging and wrinkles, and skin cancer. Tanned skin is damaged skin. When the tan fades, the damage is still there.

There’s no safe way to get a tan. Just like the sun, tanning beds and sun lamps give off UVR that causes skin damage. In fact, indoor tanning equipment gives off UVR at levels up to 5 times stronger than the midday summer sun. Getting a tan from a tanning bed doesn’t protect you from the sun – it does more harm than the sun.

In general, indoor tanning equipment uses mostly ultraviolet A (UVA). Although UVA rays are weaker than UVB rays, they can still increase the risk of skin cancer and cause skin damage. Some tanning equipment may also give off small amounts of UVB (usually less than 5%).

Risk of cancer

Using indoor tanning equipment increases the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common type of cancer.

  • non-melanoma skin cancer
    • Studies have shown that people who used indoor tanning equipment are at greater risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.
    • Studies have also shown that there may be a higher risk for developing basal cell carcinoma, though the evidence is less certain.
  • melanoma
    • Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and the most common type of cancer for young people between the ages of 15 and 29.
    • Research has shown that the risk of melanoma is much higher in people who use indoor tanning equipment. Current evidence shows that people who first start using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 have a significantly increased risk of melanoma.
    • Using UV-emitting tanning equipment also increases the risk of ocular melanoma, a type of eye cancer.

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Indoor tanning equipment and young people

Indoor tanning equipment is popular with young people. This is a major health concern because researchers have shown there is a link between UV exposure early in life and the risk of skin cancer. The longer the exposure, the greater the risk, especially for those exposed at a younger age. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people under the age of 18 should not use a tanning bed or sun lamp. The Canadian Cancer Society also believes that people under the age of 18 should not be allowed by law to use indoor tanning equipment.

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Vitamin D

Using tanning beds may increase vitamin D production, depending on the type of bulbs used (only UVB radiation can stimulate vitamin D production). But tanning beds are not a safe way to get vitamin D. There are safer ways to get vitamin D.

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Reducing your risk

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Regardless of your skin type, tanning increases your risk of skin cancer. People with fair skin may be at even higher risk for skin cancer from using tanning beds than people with other skin types.

To reduce your risk of getting skin cancer, do not use tanning beds or sun lamps.

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