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Skin Cancer

Tanning bed safety

07/07/2008

Question:

Although I know that using tanning beds is extremely unhealthy, I still occassionally use them. I have significantly reduced my usage, but not completely. Would applying sunscreen before using the tanning bed reduce the amount of damage from the UV rays? If so, what level of SPF would you recommend? And lastly, would wearing the sunscreen in the tanning bed prevent me from actually getting a tan (and thus defeat the purpose of using the tanning bed)? Thank you!

Answer:

Providing that your sunscreen protects against BOTH UVA and UVB rays, applying sunscreen prior to using a tanning bed will decrease the amount of DNA damage just as it does when you apply it prior to going out in the sun. UVA rays penetrate deep down into the lower layer of your skin and damage the elastin and collagen fibers, which keep your skin young looking. UVA also works in conjunction with the UVB rays to induce damage leading to skin cancer. So it's important to make sure you protect yourself against both rays.

As far as preventing tanning that is the point of sunscreen, to prevent tanning which is an indication that there is damage to the skin, so applying sunscreen will prevent tanning bed tanning. Your best bet to get that glow is to use some of the lotions that contain sunless tanning ingredients. They have gotten much more natural looking and you won't be damaging your skin which will lead to early aging and potentially skin cancer.

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Response by:

Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology
Associate Professor of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University