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Teens and Tanning Beds: November 8, 2011

At 21 years old, Erika Davila has been using tanning beds for a quarter of her life.

“Probably since I was about 16 when my mom had to sign for me.”

Erika gives it a glowing review.

“People say cause we live in Florida that we don’t need tanning beds but I don’t like the tan lines and I like the coloring.”

But experts have few good things to say about teens and tanning beds. More than twenty studies into skin cancer concluded a person’s risk increases 75% when they start using a tanning device before age 30.

“People who develop skin cancer later in life the primary damage has been done decades earlier. If not three, four decades maybe even five decades earlier,” says Dr. Drew Kreegel, a plastic surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

Sun damage has a cumulative effect, making enticing, multiple tanning packages even more harmful.

“This is collective, long term cumulative damage that again starts earlier in life so to the extent that you were exposed excessively and unprotected at an earlier age then you are definitely at more risk,” says Dr. Kreegel.

Even a cloudy day is no problem when it comes to a tanning bed, and that’s part of the problem. The all day, all night availability lends itself to overexposure.

“The tendency to use and get exposed to UVB radiation year round as opposed to just seasonally actually in that sense makes it more dangerous. Just getting exposure of sunlight in the summer in the warm months and then taking time off during the remainder of the year is less risky,” says Dr. Kreegel.

Several states are turning up the heat on tanning, hoping to prevent future cases of skin cancer.

“The melanoma skin cancer has the greatest ability to spread to other organs and other parts of the body and when it does there’s a much higher mortality rate,” says Dr. Kreegel.

Given the list of concerns, there may be no such thing as a perfect tan.