Don't take it inside

By: Alison Dunn Jun 21, 2010
  Article

Think indoor tanning beds are a safe alternative to the sun's harmful rays? Think again

So you're tired of your pasty legs and are longing for a "healthy" summer glow. But being out in the sun without protection isn't smart – it's one of the main causes of skin cancer. That's okay, you think, I'll just head to the indoor tanning salon for a "safe" tan.

Think again, warns the Canadian Cancer Society. There is no safe way to get a tan. According to the society, tanning beds and sun lamps release ultraviolet (UV) rays that start the tanning process in the skin, just like the sun.

Beware the "safe" tanning message

When you go to an indoor tanning salon, you often see messages that try to imply that UV-emitting tanning machines are safe. But when you expose your skin to UV rays – whether from the sun, tanning beds or sun lamps – you increase your chances of getting skin cancer. Any type and amount of exposure to UV rays can be harmful.    

The Canadian Cancer Society isn't alone in warning against the use of tanning beds either. The World Health Organization has upgraded the classification of UV-emitting devices such as tanning beds from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen. In other words, tanning beds are no longer something we think probably causes cancer – we know they cause cancer.

Common myths about indoor tanning

Indoor tanning is never safe, no matter what you may have read. Here, the Canadian Cancer Society debunks some of the most common myths about indoor tanning. 

Myth #1: Having a tan is healthy.

Actually, it's not the least bit healthy. When your skin colour changes, that means it has been damaged and that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

Myth #2: My tan protects me from the sun.

Just because your skin has already been damaged by the sun (as evidenced by a tan), that doesn't mean it can't continue to become damaged by exposure. A tan offers almost no protection from sunlight or burning – and some tanning beds can expose you to five times more radiation than the sun.

Myth #3: I’ll get my vitamin D by going to the tanning salon.

Recent research suggests Canadians aren't getting enough vitamin D, and the main source of vitamin D comes from the sun. The Canadian Cancer Society warns, however, that tanning beds are not a safe way to get vitamin D. It is safer to get it from the sun, supplements and your diet.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.