Local News

Experts Caution Against Sun Exposure, Tanning Beds

Posted May 1, 2003

— As swimsuit season approaches, tanning salons are beginning to fill up.

Some health experts are saying there is no such thing as safe tanning, whether it is in the sun or a sun bed.

Terrell Bunn said sunny, warm afternoons remind him of his wife, Sonya.

"She enjoyed the spring, especially the summertime," he said. "She liked the sun, liked to tan. We even had a suntan bed in our house. She thought [a tan] was attractive. She was attractive enough, anyway."

Bunn said he used to feel the same way until Sonya was diagnosed with melanoma. She died last summer at age 33.

"We miss her. We miss her every day," Bunn said.

Since Sonya's death, Bunn said he looks at the sun and sun tanning in a new light.

"We don't have the tanning bed anymore," he said. "In my opinion there is no safe suntan."

Dr. Nancy Thomas, a dermatologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said she sees damage done by too much sun exposure every day.

She said some people believe tanning beds are safer because they contain UVA rays, which do not cause sunburns.

"It's felt that UVA can also be quite damaging," Thomas said.

Studies have linked tanning beds to increased risk of skin cancers.

Thomas said they need further study to determine the amount of damage tanning beds can cause.

"In the meantime, I think we still have to assume that tanning beds could be very risky," she said.

Besides getting rid of the tanning bed, the Bunn family wears SPF 45 sunblock and avoids the sun during peak hours.

"If they sold it by the gallon, it wouldn't be enough," said Bunn.

He said he is teaching his two children to be careful in the sun and hopes sun safety some thing everyone will take to heart.

"From what I know now, you can do two things. You can have a nice tan or you can have your life. It kind of depends on where your priorities are," he said.

Experts suggested self-tanning lotions and sprays as safe alternatives.

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