DANVILLE - With springtime upon us and prom season on the horizon, many teenagers are taking to tanning beds to get that "healthy" glow for the big event.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, nearly 30 million people tan indoors every year, and 2.3 million of them are teenagers. Those who utilize tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to suffer from melanoma, as opposed to those who have never used indoor tanning beds.
"The use of tanning beds is quite dangerous for the body, especially for teenagers," said Victor Marks, M.D., director of dermatology at Geisinger Health System. "Consistent tanning beginning in the teenage years can cause teens to pre-age their skin by 10 to 20 years. Additionally, teens also increase their risk of developing cataracts or corneal burns because many don't shield their eyes while they are lying in the tanning bed."
Tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation that may be up to 10-15 times more powerful than that of the sun at midday. That radiation damages the skin over time and can adversely affect a person's immune system. The skin serves as the first layer of defense for your body. Once it's compromised, you are more susceptible to viruses and infections, and many will take a long time to heal.
In an effort to reduce the incidence of skin cancer more than 3 million Americans will receive the diagnosis this year both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend not using tanning beds in an effort to prevent skin cancer.
"Teens are at an increased risk for developing skin cancer because they are still in the process of growing and their cells are prone to damage easily," Dr. Marks said. "UV rays cause changes in the sequence of DNA, causing cells to mutate and increasing the potential for skin cancer to occur."
It is believed the increased use of tanning beds has lead to a rise in melanoma diagnoses, which are increasing 3 percent each year for women between the ages of 15 to 39. This deadliest form of skin cancer will kill more 9,000 people this year.
"There is nothing wrong with liking the look a tan can give you, but there are other ways to achieve that look that aren't so dangerous," Dr. Marks said. "Self-tanning lotions, gels, and bronzing mists can be purchased over the counter. Spray tans also are very popular."
Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology are advocating for legislation that prohibits kids under the age of 18 from utilizing tanning beds.