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radiation effects of suntanning

Radiation & Suntanning

Does a tanning bed cause skin cancer and, if so, how long does it take to get cancer?

Yes, tanning bed lights can cause cancer. In studies of individuals who have skin cancer, ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by tanning beds has been associated with an increased chance of skin cancer. Major scientific and medical organizations have agreed that UV light causes increases in skin cancer and recommends limiting your exposure to UV light—from natural sunlight as well as from tanning booths. The relationship between UV exposure and cancer risk is not clear except that we know that more exposure increases your risk of cancer so it is not possible to say how long a tanning bed has to be used before causing skin cancer for a specific individual.

Which causes more damage to the skin and is most harmful—tanning beds or suntanning?

The type and amount of UV radiation emitted from typical tanning beds appear to be similar to that of noontime summer sun. The reaction of a person to UV light from tanning beds or the sun is thought to be similar.

Can tanning beds affect ovaries (eggs), testes (sperm), my unborn child if I am pregnant, or my milk if I am breast-feeding?

No. UV radiation does not travel very far into the body. Therefore, it won’t affect ovaries, sperm, your unborn child if you are pregnant, or your breast milk.

If I use sunblock for protection, am I safe from skin cancer?

No. Sunblock will help reduce exposure to UV radiation, but is not totally effective in preventing skin cancer because it wears off and needs to be reapplied. If sunscreen is not applied often enough and thickly enough, it may give a false sense of security, leading to even more time in the sun. The lesson? Apply sunblock often whenever you are in the sun and especially after activities that may have washed the sunblock off (swimming, activities causing you to sweat).