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Dermatologist: No tan is safe

Posted June 7, 2011
Updated June 9, 2011

— Indoor tanning salons have marketed themselves as a safer alternative to lying out in the sun, but a Cary dermatologist says that no tan is safe. Indoors or outdoors, tanning can result in skin cancer.

Dr. Robert Clark said that the sun generates both UVA and UVB rays. The UVB rays are what cause most of the damage to the skin's DNA, which can lead to cancer. Tanning beds emit UVA radiation, which Clark said isn't necessarily safer.

"The amount of UVA that you can obtain from a tanning bed can be up to 15 times the radiation that you'd get from a similar type of exposure to the sun," Clark said.

He recommends to his patients that they use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, but preferably 50 or higher.

Diane Miller, a patient at Cary Skin Center, said she's been forced to spray tan to keep her skin's summer glow after she had about 100 lesions surgically removed from her arms, torso and legs. The lesions, she learned, were basal cell carcinomas, a form of skin cancer.

In her youth, Miller said, she spent a lot of time in tanning beds.

"I really wanted to be dark-complected," she said. "It was told to me that (a tanning bed) was safer than the sun, and now I'm paying the price because of tanning in a tanning bed."

Dermatologist urges against tanning Dermatologist urges against tanning

Miller, 45, now limits her time in the sun and makes sunscreen a daily habit.

Clark said many of his patients are dealing with sun damage that was done years ago. He wants to get the message out to teens that tanning now could mean skin cancer later.

He recently addressed state lawmakers about the dangers of tanning as legislators consider a bill that would prohibit anyone under 18 from using tanning beds for cosmetic reasons.

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  • TimeWillTell Jun 13, 2011

    I spent my teens and 20s in the sun. During college, I could stay on the beach for hours with no sun block or lotion; I'd just get darker and darker.

    I'm now in my late 50s and have had two lesions, one each basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, removed in the past two years. Both were tiny - pinhead size, recognized because they bled for no good reason and I have watched carefully for cancer symptoms for years.

    Though the lesions were tiny, the surgeries left deep, ugly quarter-sized and dime-sized craters. Had I waited until the lesions were visibly noticeable, cosmetic surgery would most likely have been needed to fix the scars.

    There were lots of young nurses at the surgery center. All of them pale. All that I talked to said it took two days of working there to give up tanning.

    But that's just me, and them. Tan to your heart's content; maybe you won't get skin cancer... and who cares if a lady's face looks like a piece of old leather by the time she's 40?

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Jun 10, 2011

    SPF 50-100? Really? When you squeeze the bottle does a blanket come out? Why not just spend your life hiding in the closet?

    How many hundreds of thousands of years did mankind manage to exist without SPF 100? NO tan is safe? As usual, America goes overboard.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Jun 10, 2011

    Get diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma and you'll be lucky to have 6 months left to live.

  • Casu-Al Jun 9, 2011

    Regarding the 100% chance of dying...if you get melanoma, you will not enjoy life the last months or even years of your life. You'll be scarred and undergoing multiple screenings, scans, and therapies and not "enjoying life" at all. Be smart about enjoying the sun...but ban the tanning beds.

  • THE ETERNAL Jun 9, 2011

    I think tanning beds are not safe. There is good evidence that sunscreen can cause cancer. The real sun has provided us health as long as we use common sense. The lack of sun and low chlosterol can cause cancer.

  • PHXNJNC Jun 9, 2011

    "I really wanted to be dark-complected," she said. "It was told to me that (a tanning bed) was safer than the sun, and now I'm paying the price because of tanning in a tanning bed."

    Nothing like putting the blame on someone else !

  • Pseudonym Jun 9, 2011

    We have a 100% chance of dying, so we may as well enjoy life while we're here.

  • VT1994Hokie Jun 8, 2011

    I have been to see my Dermologist several times over the past 8 years. I had a basel cell and a squamous cell taken off of my back in 04. I have had him freeze my lower lip two times. The last was this morning, after he cut my lip and did a biospy a month ago.

    I went to the drug store and I bought the highest SPF I could find. 100+. Rest assured, I will use this each day that I am outside. It is serious business.

  • tdmontgomery74 Jun 8, 2011

    I would rather have no wrinkles than be tan. I have slathered on the sunscreen all my life and my skin looks all the better for it. I may have gray hair but I have no wrinkles!

  • texasncgirl Jun 8, 2011

    I will never do tanning beds. Friends make fun of me for doing self-tanner (I have severe skin cancer in my family), saying it's a "fake" tan...well, we'll see how FAKE it is when they are riddled with skin cancer because of stupid irresponsible decisions. AND, *I* will look YEARS younger when I get to be in my 40's+