COMMON MYTHS ABOUT INDOOR TANNING
MYTH: There is no conclusive evidence that tanning causes cancer.
TRUTH: Yes, there is. The most highly regarded organizations for cancer research have determined, based on hundreds of scientific studies, that exposure to UV radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. No reputable studies have proved otherwise.
In 2005, the World Health Organization recommended that no person under 18 should use a tanning bed because of the increased risk of skin cancer.
In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the classification of UV-emitting devices, including commercial tanning beds, from something that probably causes cancer to something that we know causes cancer.
A 2012 review of studies by the British Medical Journal shows that people who first started using indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 have a 59% increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
MYTH: The body repairs damage to the skin caused by UV light exposure.
TRUTH: DNA damage is often not properly repaired and this can lead to cancer. For example: The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment says: “…DNA repair mechanisms…are not perfect and damage is not always removed efficiently from the genome. Because unrepaired DNA damage can cause cancer and because DNA damage also has a role in aging, the avoidance of exposure to sources of DNA damage is recommended so as to reduce the risks of cancer and premature aging.”
MYTH: Ultraviolet light is the most natural way to get vitamin D. Tanning is healthy because you can get your vitamin D from a tanning bed.
TRUTH: Tanning beds are not a safe way to get your vitamin D. For the majority of people, incidental exposure to the sun, combined with supplements and dietary intake of vitamin D, provides adequate vitamin D.
Some research has examined the type of UV rays emitted by tanning equipment. Findings show that tanning equipment emits much higher levels of UVA radiation than the sun and some emit little or no UVB radiation, which is required for vitamin D production.
MYTH: Tanning protects skin from UV light and from the risks of UV exposure.
TRUTH: A tan offers limited protection from sunlight or burning – equivalent to sunscreen with an SPF of 2-3.
A 2006 International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) report found no evidence to support a protective effect from the use of sun beds against damage to the skin by subsequent sun exposure.
MYTH: Indoor tanning provides the same/safer UV light as sunlight.
TRUTH: There is no safe way to get a tan. Some tanning beds can expose people up to 5 times more radiation than the sun.
MYTH: Melanoma incidence rates are declining in Canada.
TRUTH: Melanoma incidence rates are increasing each year in both men and women. From 1998 to 2007, rates increased by 1.4% per year in men and 1.5% per year in women.
In 2015, an estimated 6,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma and an estimated 1,150 will die from the disease.
MYTH: Only people with type 1 skin have an increased risk of developing melanoma from tanning. People with dark skin can’t get too much sun.
TRUTH: People who are very fair, freckled and burn easily are at greater risk for developing melanoma and other skin cancers from tanning. However, regardless of your skin type, tanning increases your risk of cancer.
MYTH: Tanning provides relief for health issues (for example, skin conditions, arthritis, SAD – seasonal affected disorder).
TRUTH: There are certain disorders that can be treated by UV light, but treatment should only be under medical supervision in a clinical setting.
For SAD, light therapy may be recommended (consisting of exposure to white light, not UV light). Indoor tanning is not recommended for the treatment of SAD.
MYTH: Tanning in moderation does not cause cancer; only sunburns may cause cancer.
TRUTH: Burning is only one risk factor for developing skin cancers. Exposure to UV radiation without burning is also responsible for DNA damage, which increases a person’s cancer risk.
A 2014 study found that those who used tanning beds and had never had a burn in their lifetime were almost four times more likely to get melanoma than those who never used tanning beds or had a burn. (Vogel 2014)
MYTH: The tanning process does not damage the skin/having a tan is healthy.
TRUTH: When your skin colour changes, you’re damaging your skin and that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.
Any type and amount of exposure to UV rays, including from commercial tanning beds, can be harmful. UV rays damage the skin which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.