Study: Increased risk from tanning beds

Regular tanning bed users eight times more likely to develop skin cancer than non-users

By Brittany Hackett

A recent study by the International Agency for Cancer Research indicates that regular tanning bed users have an increased risk of developing skin cancer, but that is not stopping some Flagler students from using tanning beds to achieve the “perfect glow.”

Dana Rathsam, 21, uses tanning beds because of the convenience of it.

“You get an even tan,” said Rathsam, an English major. “No tan lines and I don’t have the time to sit outside. You have to sit outside for four hours as opposed to 15 to 20 minutes.”

Morgan Scarff, 20, uses tanning beds because she likes the way she looks when she is tan and mostly goes in the winter months. Although Scarff, a psychology and sociology major, is aware of the risk of melanoma, she is comfortable with her choice to use a tanning bed.

“I know that’s a cause, but at the same time I don’t think I go enough to the point where it’s really going to damage me,” Scarff said.

According to an article published by the American Cancer Society’s News Center, those 35 and younger who use tanning beds regularly are at an eight-fold higher risk for melanoma than people who never used tanning beds.
The study looked at tanning bed use of 913 healthy people, those who had not developed malignant melanoma, and 571 people who had developed melanoma.

Many St. Augustine tanning salons say they are taking steps to ensure their customers’ safety while using tanning beds. There is usually a 20-minute time limit for bed use and some salons will only let customers come in once a day.

Sun Essentials Tanning and Massage has pictures of their customers on record as a way to prevent over tanning.

“We’re very regulated by the state and I’m a firm believer that you need to tan wisely,” said Victoria Van Horn, the owner of Sun Essentials, which will not allow its customers to tan more than once in a 24-hour period.

Cyndi Bruce, manager of Tropical Tans, says that the safety of their customers is the main concern for the salon. “We have a questionnaire they fill out prior to tanning with us,” she said. “We do care about skin care and that our customers are in a clean, healthy environment.”

Both Van Horn and Bruce say that although there are risks to using tanning beds, they are still safer than tanning outside. Van Horn said in a tanning bed, a person can tell the exact amount of rays being used and monitor how much of each kind (UVA or UVB) they are exposed to.

Control of the amount of time spent tanning is another benefit to using tanning beds, according to Bruce, as well as the use of spray on or airbrushed tans.

“I think the main reason they are somewhat safer is because it is somewhat controlled,” Bruce said.

However, the American Cancer Society says there is a risk of skin damage any time a person is exposed to UV or UVB rays, whether artificial or not.

Although he does not go to tanning beds, Michael Charneco, a senior graphic design major, believes that everything is fine in moderation.

“If someone chooses to go to the tanning bed every now and then, there is no more damage being done to your skin than going to the beach for four hours,” he said. “I tan really easily so paying for something that I can get in a short amount of time at the beach doesn’t make sense.”

The Cancer Society advises people to avoid using sunlamps and tanning beds, but says that if a person does use a bed to make sure it is FDA approved. The organization also recommends limiting direct exposure to the sun and using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

For more information on ways to prevent skin damage or information on melanoma: visit

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