Friday, December 4, 2009
Karima Adebibe - Lara Craft
As the weather turns colder and the sunlight hours dwindle, more and more Americans flock to indoor tanning salons to get that much desired straight-from-the-beach bronze glow. In fact, nearly 30 million people in the United States tan in salons every year, most of them women between the ages of 16 and 49. But before you start baking under the lights, you might want to consider the numerous health risks associated with tanning bed use.
Let’s begin with infections. If the surface of the tanning bed isn’t cleaned properly or if the towels you use aren’t washed in hot water, you can get infections like pubic lice (crabs) and warts caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Tanning beds and exposure to UV rays can have a detrimental effect on your immune system as well because it reduces the activity level of natural killer cells and T cells. UV exposure is also thought to promote the spread of skin-associated infections because the T cells are suppressed. Dr. Dawn Davis, a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic, has seen plenty of infections from tanning beds. “It’s very dangerous,” she said. “I’ve seen people come to my office who’ve gotten severe burns and scarring from tanning beds and lots of infections.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports an estimated 700 emergency room visits per year are related to tanning salon exposure.
When you don’t use goggles in the tanning bed, your eyes can be severely burned by the intense ultraviolet (UV) rays. You can develop arc eye or flash burns, a painful ocular condition sometimes experienced by welders who fail to use adequate eye protection. UV rays can also cause cataracts and damage the retina of the eye. And every time you expose your skin to UV rays, you increase your risk for developing melanoma; the most deadly form of skin cancer because it spreads easily to other organs and bones through the blood or the lymph system.