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Risks of Tanning

tanning

No matter the season, indoor tanning remains a habitual practice for many individuals. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), around one million people in the United States tan on average each day, with 28 million tanning indoors annually. Due to the consistent increase in these numbers, many questions have been raised regarding the potential risks of this popular trend.

Skin Cancer and Tanning

The practice of indoor tanning is most often associated with young girls, with the AAD reporting that 70 percent of salon goers are females between the ages of 16 and 29. However, there is no “typical” characteristic of a tanner, as both men and women, young and old, attend salons every day. Throughout the year, there are a number of occasions that patrons use as an excuse to get a tan, including prom, weddings, vacation, graduation, senior pictures, spring break, and more.

With the increased use of tanning beds comes an increase in the research conducted. Organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, the American Medical Association, the National Cancer Institute, the Federal Trade Commission, and the AAD have all released statements and fact sheets regarding the risk of skin cancer that comes from UV radiation in the forms of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

Some adamant tanners choose to completely ignore the warnings that those who tan indoors before the age of 35 have a 75 percent increased chance of developing melanoma or that there is a significant increase in the risk of skin cancer for those who tan indoors more than just 10 times per year. However, it is often overlooked that the physical act of tanning may come with another set of problems.

Tanning Bed Disinfectant

In the state of Illinois, the Illinois General Assembly provides standard requirements for the sanitation of indoor tanning salons. Before providing information regarding the sanitation of the actual beds, the Tanning Facilities Code also provides specific details on the cleanliness of the restrooms, the floors, and the showers, when provided.

In regards to the cleaning of the tanning beds, the Illinois General Assembly states that all surfaces touched by clients should be sanitized after each use with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered disinfectant, and that the cloth towels used for cleaning or drying must also be washed after each use with soap or detergent. However, each individual state has its own tanning facility regulations.

The problem with the mentioned requirements is that enforcement and attention to detail are not always present. Many tanning facilities are on or near college campuses, and even when not, it is often young adults who are working in or managing the salons. Although not necessarily true for everyone, this demographic tends to focus less on the cleaning portion of the job and more on the sales and commission aspect. Also, some salons do not provide the proper training, and cases have occurred where the same cleaning rag was used on more than one bed, causing the spread of sweat, germs, and bacteria from one bed to the next.

Bacteria and Infection

Although it is difficult to track where certain skin infections come from, there are many issues aside from skin cancer that can come as a result of indoor tanning. In January 2010, research was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology regarding the issue at hand.

During the study, researchers took a culture from one tanning bed at each of 10 top-rated salons in New York City. Although no cleaning was witnessed, at least one of the sampled beds held a sign stating that the unit had been cleaned. Out of the 10 cultures, all of them grew pathogens, including pseudomonas spp. (aeruginosa and putida), Bacillus spp., enterobacter cloacae, staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), enterococcus species, and klebsiella pneumonia.

While this was a simple study, the results still show that dirty tanning beds are something to be concerned about. Other potential risks mentioned by dermatologists include warts, human papillomavirus, herpes, and tinea versicolor. Many of these thrive in warm, damp environments, and tanning beds should not be excluded.

Although it is said that there is no “safe” tan, millions of individuals will continue to make use of indoor tanning facilities. In order to best avoid risks associated with bacteria and infections, tanning in a vertical or stand-up bed is one possible option. Also, sunless spray tans are a better alternative to beds that contain UV radiation. Regardless of the occasion, tanners should be aware of the potential risk factors and make sure to weigh options before hopping into a bed for a 10 to 20 minute fake bake.

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