||Last Updated: Apr 16th, 2012 - 18:57:46
The Kid's Doctor: Teens: Say no to tanning
By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
I have previously discussed the importance of
sunscreen, but it's equally important to discuss the risk of artificial tanning
and the use of tanning beds. I've emphasized that it's never too young to start
using sunscreen, but for some reason teens think that tanning beds are a safer
way to tan than going out in the sun.
Not so! Tanning beds use UVA
radiation, which can cause mutations in your DNA, which can then lead to skin
cancers. Dermatologists are seeing an increase in the number of young women (who
are more likely to use tanning booths) in their mid- to late 20s with the
deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. Many of these women admit to
frequent tanning during their teen years.
Malignant melanoma is different
than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the more common forms of
skin cancer. Malignant melanoma may spread rapidly to internal organs and lymph
nodes, and if not detected at an early stage, can be fatal within months to
Young girls need to understand the risks of using a tanning bed and
should be encouraged to instead use a spray tan or a tan towel to achieve the
"glow" they're after. They need to understand the risks that are proven to be
associated with tanning bed use. Many teens and young adults are using tanning
beds provided at their school dorms or apartments, as well.
If there's a
family history of melanoma or unusual moles, the risk may be even greater. Young
adults who have used tanning beds need to be followed by a dermatologist who can
examine their bodies from head to toe, "map" their existing moles and identify
any unusual moles. At the same time, such patients should be educated as to how
to monitor their own moles and watch for other skin changes. Melanomas can
develop anywhere on the body, not only in sun-exposed areas.
articles have shown that tanning beds may also be associated with an increase in
non-melanoma skin cancers. While these lesions may take longer to develop, teens
and young adults need to be aware of the risk.
The state of California has
become quite progressive in advocating for the safety of children and their
skin. Under a new state law, children under age 18 may no longer use tanning
beds. Other states are looking at similar legislation. Makes sense to me!
So, skip the suntanning and no tanning beds. Rub, wipe or spray on your tan, or
simply enjoy your beautiful fair skin. Not only is it safer, but you also won't
have to worry about wrinkles later in life (trust me on this one).
Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor"
radio show. Submit questions at www.kidsdr.com.)
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