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Is there any truth to the “base tan” protecting your skin?


Posted July 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


We’ve all heard it.  The friend that says she goes to the tanning bed to get a “base tan”.  The thought is that with this “starter” tan, they will not get burned at the beach or pool and avoid the inconvenience, as well as the cancer risk.

This is simply not true.  In a study Vogel RI et al. in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute the melanoma risk was compared in 1857 indoor tanners and people who had never tanned in a tanning bed.  The people were matched by the number of outdoor sunburns, so that was not a confounding factor.  They found that indoor tanners had increased melanoma risk compared to those who had never tanned indoors regardless of sunburn history.  Among indoor tanners who had melanoma, those who had had no sunburns started tanning at an earlier age, had more tanning sessions, and had the greatest number of years of indoor tanning.

What people don’t realize is that the sun emits UVA, UVB and UV radiation.  Sunburns are caused by the UVB rays.  Tanning beds emit UVA rays in an effort to tan the skin without burning.  However, UVA rays accelerate aging, wrinkles, brownspots.  Your skin is genetically changed by the UV radiation.  All 3 types of radiation cause cancer.  People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. The first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. In the study cited above the indoor tanners who had the fewest outdoor sunburns had the greatest risk for melanoma.  Therefore, the tanned skin achieved by UVA exposure has no protective effect against the genetic changes caused by subsequent UVA, UVB and UV radiation that leads to skin cancer.

Avoiding tanning beds and protecting your skin with sunscreen is not only safer and healthier, but is more beautiful and radiant with less wrinkles and brown spots!


Vogel RI et al. Exposure to indoor tanning without burning and melanoma risk by sunburn history J Natl Cancer Inst 2014 May 2

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