Dangers of Tanning

Whether you’re lying in the sun or in an indoor tanning bed, tanning is dangerous. And while it seems most young women understand that danger, many of them are still tanning and putting themselves at risk for skin cancer. According to a new American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) survey, 71 percent of 18- to 34-year-old women know that there is no such thing as a healthy tan, and 66 percent know that getting a base tan is not a healthy way to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The survey also indicates that these women understand what’s at risk when they tan, as 98 percent know that skin cancer can be deadly. “Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is the second most common cancer in young women, and we believe this may be due in part to their tanning habits. It is alarming that young women are continuing to tan even though they’re aware of the danger,” says board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth S. Martin, M.D., FAAD, chair of the AAD Council on Communications. “Exposure to UV radiation, whether it’s from the sun or an indoor tanning device, is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Women need to take their knowledge and turn it into action by protecting themselves from the sun and staying out of tanning beds.” In an effort to communicate this message, the AAD has released a new skin cancer public service advertisement called “Arms,” which features two young women comparing their tans at various stages in their lives. The emotional ad concludes with the two friends clasping hands in the hospital as one of them reveals she has advanced stage melanoma. “We hope this PSA inspires young women to give up dangerous tanning practices and protect their skin by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher,” says Martin. “A tan is not worth your life.”


Over the course of the PSA, the friend who develops melanoma is shown to have a mole that gets larger and darker with the passage of time, which demonstrates the importance of monitoring your skin for suspicious spots. Skin cancer, including melanoma, is highly treatable when detected early. “Early detection is vital in the fight against skin cancer, so everyone should regularly perform skin self-exams,” says Martin. “If you notice any irregular spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.” The AAD highlights the importance of early detection in another skin cancer PSA released last month, entitled “Looking Good.” The humorous ad features a man posing in the bathroom mirror until his wife catches him from the doorway. A female voiceover encourages men to regularly examine their skin and find a partner to help.

For more information on skin cancer prevention and detection, visit SpotSkinCancer.org. There, you can also find instructions to share with clients on how to perform a skin self-exam, download a body mole map for tracking changes in your skin, and find free SPOTme skin cancer screenings in your area. SPOT Skin Cancer is the AAD’s campaign to create a world without skin cancer through public awareness, community outreach programs and services, and advocacy that promote the prevention, detection and care of skin cancer.