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PREVENT

Indoor tanning increases risk of melanoma by a whopping 75%

Do you think that getting a base tan before leaving for a sunny vacation protects your skin from sunburn? Think again.

We know about the harmful effects of tanning beds, yet they continue to be popular. Because tanning beds are a huge risk factor for skin cancer (including dangerous melanoma), I screen my patients about tanning bed use. Something I commonly hear is, "But I only go to tanning beds before vacation to get a base tan and keep myself from burning."  Let me explain why this is not a good idea.

Getting a base tan gives minimal protection against sunburn. The darkening/tanned appearance you see signifies that the DNA in your skin cells is attempting to protect itself. The damage is done, however. Tanning just once increases your risk for skin cancer. Indoor tanning increases the risk for melanoma by up to 75%. Tanning beds are so dangerous that Minnesota passed legislation last year prohibiting minors from using tanning beds altogether.

Getting a base tan only gives the equivalent of wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 4 or less. You would never choose an SPF of 4 to protect yourself from sunburn when on a tropical vacation!

Skip the tanning beds and invest in a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. If sunscreen is applied generously, reapplied every one-and-a-half to two hours, and used with sun protective clothing, you are unlikely to get sunburned. You will have a more fun vacation and be less likely to get skin cancer. Now, have a great trip!

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