Opinion: Tanning beds are not worth the health risks

Molly Morrissey, Opinions Editor

Credit: Liam Killian

As we approach summer, many people find themselves wanting to look their best for whatever plans they may have. And while some people may choose to get their hair done or get a new wardrobe, some go to the tanning salon. 

For many people, a tan makes them  feel better about themselves and leave winter behind. According to the National Library of Medicine, tanning can increase confidence in oneself about their appearance, as they may wish to achieve a certain aesthetic of beauty so that they feel prepared for the warmer months 

According to Dermatology.com, 419, 254 cases of melanoma per year can be attributed to the use of a tanning bed, making it apparent that tanning bed visitors have become more frequent, especially within the college age demographic. Though the process of using a tanning bed results in a tan that looks like it came from the sun, the health consequences that can result from using a tanning booth make the temporary confidence boost incredibly dangerous and not worth the risk.

Tanning booths are often found as a culprit to the increased chance of developing skin cancer. Countless studies have shown a connection between the use of indoor tanning beds and new occurrences of the disease. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, tanning is the “exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds that causes genetic damage to the cells on [the] outmost layer of skin.” Whether the darker complexion comes from the sun or from the artificial rays of a tanning bed, tanning can be dangerous, and it becomes even more dangerous with every tan. 

The popularity associated with having a ‘good tan’ among college aged individuals makes  this group  more likely to expose themselves to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that, “there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking.” Melanoma accounts for a staggering amount of skin cancer incidents involved with indoor tanning methods. 

Although not every case is fatal, melanoma is the cause for a majority of skin cancer deaths. A study by the Skin Cancer Foundation found that an increased risk of 75 percent of developing melanoma results from a single tanning session prior to the age of 35. 

Another study done by Dermatologist Clara Farley has shown that, among female patients who took part in a telephone survey that had been diagnosed with melanoma (260), they were three times more likely to have used indoor tanning methods. 

Those women also tended to be among the groups that are already at a higher risk for contracting the disease, having a light complexion and light hair. The study concluded that ceasing the use of indoor tanning beds would cause the incidence rate of melanoma to decrease. Not every case of melanoma is due to tanning booths, but the use of them has been shown to be connected to an increased risk of melanoma. 

This information should be enough to sway someone to stay away from using the tanning beds. Unlike how smoking can become addictive, going to a tanning salon is completely voluntary, and people can stop going whenever they please. Why not take action when we are young to stop preventable cancer? 

Unfortunately, youth comes with a sense of invincibility, and it sometimes gives us the feeling that doing harmful things when we are young will not affect us in the long run. I do not doubt that people will continue to use tanning booths, but the best way to keep people safe is by educating them. 

In order to protect yourself from melanoma and other skin cancer, you can avoid tanning booths, use sunscreen diligently, conduct regular self exams of the moles or freckles on your body, visit a dermatologist for regular checkups, and try you best to stay in the shade when you can. Though a tan may be tempting, your health is far more important than looking bronzed for the summer months.