March 2015 | Volume 5, Number 3
To see Children's of Alabama experts discuss this topic, click here.
It’s that time of year when students get ready
for Spring Break and fun in the sun. Unfortunately,
as many teens begin to trade their winter coats for shorts and t-shirts, they
may head to the tanning bed to recreate that warm glow.
In fact, some may think going to a tanning bed
is safer than being in the sun, since the exposure time is only about 10
minutes. However, the experts at
Children’s of Alabama say the use of tanning beds is why physicians are
treating more and more young people for skin cancer.
Indoor Tanning vs. Sunlight
The sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet
radiation that affect your skin: UVA and UVB.
Tanning beds use UVA light, which penetrates the skin more deeply than
UVB rays. So tanning beds can cause just
as much – if not more – damage as the sun.
Plus the concentration of UVA rays from a tanning bed is greater than
the amount of UVA rays a person gets from the sun.
Types of Skin Cancer
Studies show that users of tanning beds have much
higher risks of basal and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common types of
skin cancer. Doctors also know that
young people are more at risk for melanoma, the most serious kind of skin
cancer. Melanoma that’s caught early, when it’s still on the surface of the
skin, can be cured. But undetected
melanoma can grow downward into the skin until it reaches the blood vessels and
lymphatic system. These two systems can act like a highway for the cancer
cells, allowing them easy access to distant organs like the lungs or the
brain. That’s why early detection is so
It used to be that mostly older people got melanoma,
but doctors are seeing more people in their twenties and even younger with
serious cases of skin cancer. Among
teens and young adults, there is an eight- fold higher risk of melanoma among
tanning bed users, due to their exposure to concentrated doses of UV rays.
to Recognize Skin Cancer
are things you can do to help with early detection of skin cancer, said Traci
Duncan, CRNP, a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s of Alabama. “The most important thing is to know your
skin, and be familiar with your moles. Know whether a mole has undergone any kind of recent change, whether
it’s in size, shape or color.”
Minimizing Your Risk
The good news about skin cancer is that you have the power to
substantially reduce your family’s risk of getting it by taking sun safety
- Avoid the strongest sun of
the day — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use broad-spectrum
sunscreen (SPF 15 or more) whenever you're in the sun.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat
and cover up with long, loose cotton clothing if you burn easily.
- Stay out of the tanning
salon. The risk of developing melanoma is eight times greater among people who
use tanning beds regularly.
- Regularly check for moles
and any changes on your family’s skin
Remember, you don't have
to go without a sun-bronzed look. The new generation of self-tanners and body
makeups offer easy, realistic results at a reasonable price. Just be sure to
use a daily sunblock with an SPF of at least 15 when you go outdoors since fake
tanners don't protect you against sunburn or sun damage.
However, it’s a good idea
to avoid airbrush or spray on tans. “The
FDA hasn't approved DHA, the main ingredient in self-tanners for use internally
or on mucous membranes like the lips,” said Duncan.“Spray tans may have
unknown health risks because people can breathe in the spray, or the tanner may
end up on their lips or eye area.”
By taking these
precautions, you can insure your family’s skin truly is healthy.
more information on this and other health and safety tips, visit www.childrensal.org.