A sunbed (British English), tanning bed (American English) or sun tanning bed is a device that emits ultraviolet radiation (typically 97% UVA and 3% UVB, +/-3%) to produce a cosmetic tan. Regular tanning beds use several fluorescent lamps that have phosphor blends designed to emit UV in a spectrum that is somewhat similar to the sun. Smaller, home tanning beds usually have 12 to 28 100 watt lamps while systems found in tanning salons can consist of 24 to 60 lamps, each of 100 to 200 watts.
There are also "high pressure" tanning beds that generate primarily UVA with some UVB by using highly specialized quartz lamps, reflector systems and filters. These are much more expensive, thus less commonly used. A tanning booth is similar to a tanning bed, but the person stands while tanning and the typical power output of booths is higher.
Because of the adverse effects on human health of overexposure to UV radiation, including skin cancer, cataracts, suppression of the immune system, and premature skin aging, the World Health Organization does not recommend the use of UV tanning devices for cosmetic reasons. Most tanning beds emit mainly UVA rays — which may increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Misusing a sunbed by not wearing goggles may also lead to a condition known as arc eye (snow blindness). Occasional acute injuries occur where users carelessly fall asleep, as in the case of Marty Cordova.
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (March 2011)|
Although tanning beds were initially brought to America by Friedrich Wolff in 1979 he soon patented his particular blend of phosphors (since expired) and began licensing the technology to other companies. Some of the early adopters of the Wolff technology include ETS, Inc., SCA, Sun Industries, Inc., Montego Bay, Sunal. Friedrich Wolff sold Wolff Systems to his brother Jorg, the founder of Cosmedico Limited, another pioneer in the tanning industry.
From their US introduction in 1979, sunbeds have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's 21CFR 1040.20. This was amended in 1986 to include lamp compliance, warning labels and eye protection. This law was designed primarily to ensure that all sunbeds sold or used in salons adhered to a general set of safety rules, with the primary focus on sunbed and lamp manufacturers in regards to maximum exposure times and product equivalence. In addition, states have the opportunity to offer regulations for salons themselves, regarding the operator training, the sanitization of the sunbed and eyewear, and additional warning signs. For a comprehensive list of states with indoor tanning restrictions for minors and their specific laws, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Several companies continue to license the Wolff name and use their lamps because of the name recognition, although this has steadily diminished over the years as other lamp builders have created lamps that are arguably as good as or better than Wolffs'.
Most modern tanning beds have not changed much from the original systems. The lamp technology and electronics have evolved over the years, but the basic "low pressure" tanning bed has not evolved. The original ballast systems used in the first tanning beds, both "European choke" and magnetic, are still in use today although there are now many other choices including electronic and high frequency. The lamps are still fluorescent type, using special phosphors that create a spectrum in the UVA and UVB range. Mostly emitting UVA rays. although there has been a great deal of advancement over the years to make the light spectrum they emit more "sun-like".
The original tanning lamps were discovered by accident in 1903 by a German company called Heraeus who were developing lighting systems for the home and for industrial usage. These lamps were of the high-pressure metal halide variety. They discovered that the light that was developed for visible light purposes also emitted ultra-violet light. In the 1920s and 1930s Heraeus first started to market and sell single lamp, self standing tanning/wellness devices. The first high-pressure tanning beds incorporating more than a single high-pressure lamp were manufactured in the mid to late seventies by companies such as Ultrabronz and JK Ergoline and in the 1980s the first high-pressure units were exported to the United States.
These units require special filter glass to remove the UVC and the majority of the UVB that is emitted and are difficult to manufacture because the alignment of the lamps is more critical than in traditional low-pressure tanning beds. They are generally large units, with a padded area to lie on or an acrylic and 6 to 36 lamps in a canopy or canopy and bench configuration, the tanning effect is much deeper and requires only a maintenance exposure of about 2-3 times per month compared to every 48 hours for regular tanning beds. They are much more expensive to operate, thus more expensive for the user. Retail prices in the $20,000 to $35,000 range are common with individual sessions costing $20 to $45, depending on the market.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2010)|
A growing trend is the home tanning bed. Many people are now opting to own their own tanning system instead of going to the salon. The primary reasons are for convenience and privacy. As more states seek to ban young adults from commercial salons, home tanning with the control of a system that allows UV by skin type and a timer may encourage additional sales. The average home system has 16 to 24 lamps, and costs $2000 to $3000, making its price competitive (over a number of years) for tanners who frequent salons regularly. This has led to an explosion of retailers that feature smaller, home style tanning beds both on the internet and in traditional retail stores.
Another trend is spray on tanning (a form of sunless tanning), using either special booths or a hand held setup similar to an airbrush. Many people who try spray on tanning often still go to the tanning salon, and use the spray on as a way to jump start the appearance of a tan, while others use it as a way to look tan while avoiding UV exposure of any kind. This is also demonstrated by the large number of indoor tanning lotions that have "bronzers" included, which is similar to the chemicals used for spray on tans, DHA.
The Indoor Tanning Association now estimates a 30 million customer base in the U.S.—about 10% of the total US population. 2.3 million of these customers are teens. 18.1% of women tan indoors while 6.3% of men tan indoors. 13% of indoor tanners are teens, 20.4% are young adults (age 18-29), 13% are adults (age 30-64) and 9.8% are older adults (age 65+).
||This section is written like a manual or guidebook. (August 2010)|
Tanning beds use lamps to cause a person to tan. Most tanning beds use choke ballasts, a technology that has been around for about 100 years, consisting of an inductor which limits amount of current passing through, and requires a lamp starter to preheat the ends of the lamp briefly at start. Newer ballast systems include magnetic ballasts, electronic ballasts and more recently high frequency ballasts that induce tanning and other fluorescent lamps to work using less wattage, by using higher frequencies. In general, newer ballast designs produce less heat and are more energy efficient.
The ballasts control the power sent to the lamps, so that a 160W lamp in a tanning bed that has 100W ballasts, will only deliver 100W to the lamp and may actually create less UV and shorter lamp life since the bulb is designed for higher current. The lamp starter part of the bed (small tan cylinder) is used only on beds with choke ballasts and is a plasma starting switch. It has no bearing on how powerful the bed is.
Like all fluorescent lamps (and other plasma devices such as neon lighting), low pressure tanning lamps work when the ballast directs enough energy to the lamp that a plasma is generated inside the lamp. The lamps are coated on the inside with special phosphors and contain a small amount of mercury (20 mg typical). Unlike high pressure lamps, the glass that is used in low pressure lamps automatically filters out all UVC.
Once the plasma is fully flowing (less than one second), the plasma strips away the outer electrons from the mercury, sending them into the phosphor, which produces photons in the proper spectrum for tanning. The electrons, now in a lower energy state, will jump back into place onto the first mercury atom they find with an electron missing.
The surfaces on which a person lies and which shield the user by physical separation from the lamps on the bench and canopy are typically referred to as the "acrylics". Acrylics are manufactured from a base material of Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA), type UVT (UV-transmitting), which has been formulated to have a spectral transmittance in the wavelength region 290-400 nm. This should not be confused with a standard acrylic, or "plexiglass", which would not transmit within this spectral range, effectively inhibiting the tanning properties of the unit.
Base resins are typically cell-cast or extruded into sheet and then thermoformed to manufacture the acrylics. On occasion, depending on the complexity of the part, the resin will be injection molded. It is due to the expense of the specially formulated resin, handling considerations and manufacturing processes which drive the cost of acrylic parts, which can be high when compared to standard grade acrylic which can be purchased at your local home improvement store.
These acrylic materials should never be cleaned with any agent containing alcohol (i.e. glass cleaner), as this will adversely affect the material surface causing a phenomenon known a "crazing". This will present itself as small fissures resembling spiderwebs forming where stresses are most concentrated on the part and in the region which was subjected to the chemical attack.
These shields break down over time as they are exposed to UV and oxygen and must be reconditioned or replaced every few years.
Most mainstream tanning beds built today use similar electronics, with the primary differences being in the design and quality of the frame and shell of the bed, as well as the number and type of lamps used. The newer electronics are very promising because of their lower power usage, cooler running temperature, and more environmentally friendly components.
Benefits and risks
The benefits of artificial tanning are debated among the tanning industry and proponents of public health such as the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the European Union, several provinces in Canada, and states throughout Australia and the United States. The tanning industry identifies a primary benefit of indoor tanning is that it allows for a cosmetic tan in control and moderation by skin type and a timer that minimize the risk for sunburn and overexposure.
It has been suggested[by whom?] that tanning may be addictive and research provides contradictory evidence. In one study exploring the pathway of the tanning response, the production of ß-endorphin is produced in the same pathway, which could potentially contribute to the addictive potential of tanning. Another study concluded that there were no significant differences in the mean plasma levels of β-endorphin between people who were exposed to tanning beds and those who were not. The positive psychological benefits of tanning may be due to factors other than endorphins.
While the tanning industry identifies a tan that is developed in a tanning bed offers some protection from overexposure to the natural sun, an individual should not depend on it as their only protection. An indoor tan provides a natural SPF of between 2 and 4 (sun protective lotions are generally SPF 30 or higher). It is advisable to use the proper SPF's according to skin type and sun intensity, even if a base tan is present.
A benefit claimed by the tanning industry of tanning indoors rather than tanning outside is the amount of control the tanner has. They claim that if a person decides to get a suntan and wants to minimize the risk of getting a sunburn, a tanning bed offers an environment that delivers the same amount of UV in a given period of time, day after day. In contrast, the amount of UV that reaches the ground can vary from minute to minute and the longer tanning times results in deeper exposure. However, there is no evidence that such control provides a safe or even safer environment. The FDA and the FTC forbid use of the words "safe" or "safer than" regarding indoor tanning. Despite the fact that the indoor tanning industry has been forbidden by the FTC from promoting any health benefits of tanning in its marketing due to a lack of scientific evidence, they still claim that indoor tanning offers a controlled environment to obtain a tan. However, there are a number of studies that demonstrate that indoor tanners are quite likely to get burned and suffer other skin damage during their indoor tanning sessions.
A frequently claimed benefit of artificial tanning is the increased production of vitamin D. Skin phenotype, as measured on the Fitzpatrick scale, influences the skin’s response to UV radiation. Fitzpatrick Types I and II (fair skin, eyes, and hair) burn easily and can produce maximal vitamin D photosynthesis in less than 10 minutes of midday sun. People with Fitzpatrick Types I and II are at the highest risk of photodamage (whether from the sun or artificial tanning) and are at the lowest risk of vitamin D insufficiency if photosynthesis occurs.
In a research project funded by the United States National Institutes of Health and a grant from the UV Foundation, Tangpricha, V. et al. identified, "the regular use of a tanning bed that emits vitamin D–producing ultraviolet radiation is associated with higher 25(OH)D concentrations and thus may have a benefit for the skeleton." Michael F. Holick, an investigator in the study, declared a conflict of interest because he serves as a consultant to the UV Foundation. The UV Foundation garners financial support from the Indoor Tanning Association, OSRAM (a German lamp and lighting company), and Future Industries (a United States importer of tanning beds, tanning bed supplies, and lamps). Most scientists in this area do not agree with Dr. Holick's conclusions.
The human body can produce up to 10,000 IUs of vitamin D in 10 minutes, as it can with exposure to natural sunlight. This vitamin has many benefits, and many people with indoor lifestyles may not receive enough. Most tanning beds use bulbs with the same UVB relative to UVA rays as the Sun and produce the same levels of vitamin D. High pressure tanning equipment, however, has a much lower ratio of UVB to UVA, and is much less effective for this purpose.
Indoor tanning beds may or may not be useful for the treatment of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It is plausible that the benefit that many SAD patients experience are more due to tanning causing them to feel good in general, rather than treating the SAD itself since tanning beds do not produce the wavelength of light needed for effective SAD treatment.
The Indoor Tanning Association settled with the FTC in January 2010 regarding false health and safety claims about indoor tanning. Contrary to claims in the association’s advertising, indoor tanning increases the risk of squamous cell and melanoma skin cancers, according to the FTC complaint. The association has agreed to a settlement that bars it from any further deception. "The messages promoted by the indoor tanning industry fly in the face of scientific evidence," said David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The industry needs to do a better job of communicating the risks of tanning to consumers." The FTC complaint alleges that in March 2008, the association launched an advertising campaign designed to portray indoor tanning as safe and beneficial. The campaign included two national newspaper ads, television and video advertising, two Web sites, a communications guide, and point-of-sale materials that were provided to association members for distribution in local markets.
Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin cancer, advance skin aging and wrinkling, mutate DNA, and reduce immune system response. Frequent tanning bed use triples the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Children and adolescents who use tanning beds are at greater risk because of biological vulnerability to ultraviolet radiation.
The US Public Health Service states that UV radiation, including the use of sun lamps and sun beds are "known to be a human carcinogen." It further states that the risk of developing cancer in the years after exposure is greatest in people under 30 years old. A Report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) suggested in 2005 that policymakers should consider enacting measures, such as prohibiting minors and discouraging young adults from using indoor tanning facilities. Since then, many states have mandated parental consent for persons under the age of 18 prior to tanning bed use.
There is scientific evidence that each of the three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma, is caused by UV exposure. Women who visited a tanning parlor at least once a month were 55% more likely to later develop melanoma than women who didn't artificially suntan.
Young women who used sun lamps for tanning while in their 20s had the largest increase in subsequent cancer risk – about 150% higher than similar women who did not use tanning beds. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation induces at least two common genetic mutations. Those include cyclobutane–pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) and 6–4 photoproducts (6–4PPs) and their Dewar valence isomers.
The mutation types generally differ between UVA and UVB light. Mutant cells may die, or become cancerous, depending on which genes were mutated. While DNA repair enzymes can fix some mutations, they are not sufficiently effective, as demonstrated by the relation to cancer, aging and other types of persistent mutation and cell death. For example, squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) is caused by a UVB induced mutation in the p53 gene.
UVA light specifically (sometimes called 'bronzing light') is clearly associated with increased skin aging and wrinkle production. UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, creating free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which in turn damage DNA. Most aging of skin is due to UVA rays destroying collagen and connective tissue beneath the superficial layer of the skin. UVB rays cause skin to burn and directly damages DNA by interfering with its replication cycle. Excessive exposure to UVA radiation has its risks, which may cause premature aging, including wrinkles, sunspots, and loss of skin elasticity.
In July 2009, the IARC released a report that placed tanning beds in its highest cancer risk category, "carcinogenic to humans." The agency, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), previously classified tanning beds as "probably carcinogenic." The change comes after an analysis of more than 20 epidemiological studies indicating that people who begin using tanning devices before age 30 are 75% more likely to develop melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.
A 2009 Associated Press article stated, "International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, deeming them as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas."
The Irish Health Minister in August 2009 said that she is considering outlawing the industry completely given that tanning beds are dangerous and are hugely contributing to people developing skin cancer.
Tanning beds can contain many microbes, some of which are pathogens that can cause skin infections or can be ingested and cause gastric distress. The most common pathogens found on tanning beds are: Pseudomonas spp. (aeruginosa and putida), Bacillus spp., Klebsiella pneumoniae, Enterococcus species, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterobacter cloacae.
Risks to young people who use sunbeds
Children and adolescents who use tanning beds are at greater risk because of biological vulnerability to UV radiation. Epidemiological studies have shown that exposure to artificial tanning increases the risk of malignant melanoma and that the longer the exposure, the greater the risk, particularly in individuals exposed before the age of 30 or who have been sunburned.
Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15–29 years old than males in the same age group. In females 15–29 years old, the torso is the most common location for developing melanoma, which may be the result of high-risk tanning behaviors.
One study conducted amongst a college student population found that awareness of the risks of tanning beds did not deter the students from using them. A study published in Pediatrics in 2002 identified the main psychosocial factors of children and adolescents who using tanning beds as: having friends who tan, the belief that it’s ok to get burned in order to achieve a good tan, and that having tanned skin is more attractive and healthier looking than pale skin.
In a national sample of non-Hispanic white teenagers, 24% of respondents [or 2.9 million teens] between the ages of 13 to 19 reported using a tanning facility at least once in their lives. Nationally, more than 25% of teenage girls have used tanning salons three or more times in their lives. Ten percent of teens visit tanning salons weekly. Teenagers are frequent targets of the tanning industry’s highly visible marketing tactics, attracting teens through coupons and media outlets, and going as far as placing ads in high school newspapers. It is difficult for a teen to resist offers for free tanning trial periods, membership deals, steep discounts, or "unlimited tanning".
For children and adolescents who use indoor tanning facilities for cosmetic reasons, the focus on perceived, immediate benefits overshadows the cumulative risks and consequences in the future. Parents, pediatricians, public health practitioners, and lawmakers are rallying support to provide more comprehensive information and support to young people who use tanning beds.
The European Union is discussing new regulations that would limit the amount of UVB allowed in tanning lamps and devices. In the United Kingdom (except for Northern Ireland), anyone under 18 years of age will be banned from using sunbeds, as this legislation was passed by Parliament. This also includes salons. Elsewhere in Europe, under 18s are prohibited from indoor tanning in Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Norway and Lithuania.
The Province of Ontario re-introduced the Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Bill 74) on April 26, 2012, with the goal of protecting youth under the age of 18 from the dangers associated with indoor tanning by restricting youth access and requiring that all indoor tanning facilities post health warnings in clear view of customers.
On December 9, 2010, the Province of Nova Scotia passed Bill 102 - this bill effectively bans minors under 19 from indoor tanning.
On January 12, 2011, the Capital Regional District (CRD) of Victoria British Columbia passed Bylaw No.3711. The bylaw regulates the indoor tanning industry, and includes provisions to ban teens under 18 from using tanning beds in thirteen municipalities and two regional districts on lower Vancouver Island. The CRD staff reported that Vancouver, Toronto and ten other Canadian cities have expressed interest.
In June, 2012, the province of Quebec adopted the law 74. This law prohibit tanning bed for minors under 18.
As of July 2012, the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland have also announced plans to ban minors from indoor tanning.
In the fall of 2012, Canadians MP's will be voting on Private Member's Bill C-386 tabled by conservative MP James Bezan in an attempt to ban tanning beds for those under 18 years of age, and strengthen warning labels on tanning beds for Canadians of all ages. http://www.jamesbezan.com/news.asp?newsID=2103
On August 13, 2012, the City of Oakville became the first municipality in Ontario to ban the use of tanning beds for individuals under the age of 18.
The sunbed industry in New Zealand operates under a voluntary code of practice. A 2009 survey, as well as surveys in other years by Consumer New Zealand, found that there was a high level of non-compliance with the code. Various health organisations are calling for mandatory regulation of the industry.
Between 2009 and 2012, the number of sunbed operators in Auckland dropped from 73 to 39, as tougher regulations were introduced. 
In the United States, the maximum exposure time in most tanning beds is 20 minutes but varies from bed to bed. This is calculated by the manufacturer according to the amount of time needed to produce four MEDs (minimal erythemal doses). This is essentially four times the amount of UV that is required to produce a reddening on unexposed skin. A person would start with a much shorter session time and work their way to the maximum exposure time in about four weeks. Every tanning bed is required to have a "Recommended Exposure Schedule" on both the front of the tanning bed and in the owners manual. It must also list the original lamp that was certified for that particular tanning bed, and salon owners must replace the lamps with either exactly the same lamp, or a lamp that is certified by the lamp manufacturer to be legally equivalent. Lamp replacement and salon compliance is regulated by the individual state in the USA, whereas the manufacturing and sale of new equipment is regulated by the federal government.
Since many factors can change the performance of any given individual lamp, the United States Food and Drug Administration requires that every tanning bed model is certified separately, and lamps themselves do not have MED ratings. Lamps do have typical TE (or Time Exposure) ratings, but these are not used for certifying beds. Session times on beds can range from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on many factors. In 2010, an FDA panel recommended banning the use of tanning beds for people under 18 years old.
In 2010, to help fund the $940 billion health care overhaul, a 10% tax on individuals receiving indoor tanning services was tacked on, and the initiative is expected to generate $2.7 billion over ten years. The IRS has created audit guides for revenue agents concerning indoor tanning services.
The Food and Drug Administration advisory board, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Academy for Dermatology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) support legislation for a federal ban against the use of tanning salons by persons under the age of 18. Numerous states have proposed or enacted bills for restricting use of tanning beds by children and adolescents. Factors influencing the passage or failure of these bills include: lawmakers’ unwillingness to infringe on young people’s freedom of choice, and the glamorization of a tan leading to inadequate skin protection.
Some states have regulated the use of tanning beds for minors. California banned minors under the age of 18 from using tanning beds. The previous law allowed tanning bed use for minors between the age of 14 and 18 only by parental consent. Lawmakers in the state cited health concerns over the use of ultraviolet rays in tanning beds.
Regulation in Colorado
Starting January 1, 1993, and every year following, owners of artificial tanning facilities must register the facility with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and pay appropriate registration fees. Owners of such facilities are required to: 1) Provide CDPHE with the safe and proper operation of the tanning device 2) Post a sign on the premises notifying patrons of the safety and health risks associated with using the tanning devices. This notice must be of a noticeable size and be easily read and found by users. 3) Provide patrons with a written handout, which includes the negative health effects of the device, UV radiation exposure, safety equipment that should be used while tanning and information about the device itself. 4) Provide the users with the safety equipment required by CDPHE. 5) Provide and maintain sanitation and cleaning of equipment. 6) Report accidents or adverse reactions to CDPHE. 7) Employees or owner of facility cannot promote or advertise that using tanning beds is safe and risk-free .
Policies in other states: most state require written parental/guardian permission for children under 18. Some states ban tanning for 16 and 14 year olds (and under). 21 states to introduce new regulations in 2011-2012, most would prohibit under 18 year olds from using facilities .
In Australia, the solarium industry is regulated on a state by state basis. The first states to regulate solarium use were Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in 2008 following the death of skin cancer victim Clare Oliver.
The 2008 regulations cited that solarium operators must be licensed, unsupervised solariums were banned and health warnings must be displayed. In Victoria, those under the age of 16 and people with fair skin were banned from using solariums and those aged 16 and 17 were required to have parental consent whereas is South Australia and Western Australia, a straight ban for the under 18s was applied.
In February 2009, the Victorian Government introduced further changes to the management licence for tanning units, including applying a ban for the under 18s, consistent with the revised Australian standard, released in January 2009. Victorian solarium legalisation was revised in late 2010, strengthening some controls around sighting evidence of age documents in relation to excluding under 18s.
The Australian standard requires that operators must: (a) Ban people under 18 years of age from using their solarium (b) Sight evidence of age documents for clients who may be under 18 (c) Ban people with very fair skin (skin type I) from using their solarium (d)Display mandatory health warnings (e) Provide a consent form outlining the risks of solarium use for customers to read and sign (f) Complete a skin assessment of all clients (g) Ensure all staff have completed training in carrying out skin assessments and determining exposure times (h) Ensure clients wear protective eyewear.
In 2011, the New South Wales government called for public submissions in relation to a proposal to extend the age ban from using solariums to those under 30. In February 2012 the New South Wales Government announced its intention to ban tanning beds, starting in 2014.
In December 2012 it was announced that Victoria will completely ban the use of tanning beds by 2014, Operators will be offered no compensation. 
Comparison to natural tanning
Most tanning beds have about the same amount of UVA as sunlight (as opposed to UVB), while the 'warning signs' of overexposure, such as sunburn, do not appear at the same rate indoors as out. Furthermore, the radiation levels are more intense, requiring individuals to limit their exposure to very brief periods. The carcinogenic mutations in some skin cancers have been linked to UVA radiation more than UVB, suggesting that beds have different risks than natural light. The UVA light is also more strongly associated with skin aging than UVB, and with genetic damage.
Natural sunlight exposure has made studies of artificial tanning difficult, since all people are exposed to the natural sun. There are indisputable values to moderate sunlight exposure. UVB light induces the body to synthesize Vitamin D. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption, and improves development and reduces cancer risk. The amount of sunlight required per day is estimated to be approximately the same that a single tanning session provides (10 minutes of strong sunlight every day for many people)., however 10 minutes of sunlight produces far fewer of the negative side effects caused by the tanning bed's UVA intensity.
Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) from the sun and in tanning beds
The sun emits UVR in the form of A, B, and C waves. They are named according to the length of the wave and are associated with various health events. The ozone affects UVR from the sun and different amounts reach the earth's surface depending on the wavelength. Sunbeds can have the same health effects as UVR from the sun.
UVA wavelengths (315-400 nm) are the longest wavelengths, and are only slightly affected by ozone levels. Most UVA radiation is able to reach Earth's surface and can contribute to skin aging, eye damage, and can suppress the immune system.
- Most of the UV radiation in tanning beds is UVA, but may be 10 to 15 times more intense than midday sun.
- UVA penetrates the skin more deeply and does not cause a burn
- UVA does not damage DNA directly like UVB and UVC, but it can generate highly reactive chemical intermediates, such as hydroxyl and oxygen radicals, which in turn damage DNA.
UVB wavelengths (280-315 nm) are strongly affected by ozone levels. Decreases in stratospheric ozone mean that more UVB radiation can reach Earth's surface.
- UVB causes burns, snow blindness, immune system suppression, and a variety of skin problems including skin cancer and premature aging.
- Short-wavelength UVB has been recognized for some time as carcinogenic in experimental animals.
UVC wavelengths (180-280 nm) have the shortest wavelengths, and are very strongly affected by ozone levels. Virtually all UVC radiation is absorbed by ozone, water vapor, oxygen and carbon dioxide before reaching Earth’s surface.
- Tanning lamps do not emit UVC
Some people with keratosis, psoriasis, and eczema are treated with UVB light therapy. This is typically in the 310 nm to 315 nm portion of the UVB spectrum. Virtually all fluorescent tanning lamps have one spectral peak within this region of the UVB spectrum, making them an effective tool in mild to moderate cases. In some circumstances, salon memberships have been prescribed and more rarely the purchase of home tanning beds have been prescribed by doctors and may be covered by insurance policies.
Tanning may temporarily help some forms of acne by drying out the skin, but it is not a solution that lasts for very long. Further, most prescription or over the counter acne medications (e.g. Accutane, Benzoyl Peroxide, Retin-A), when used in combination with ultraviolet exposure, may lead to burning or delayed healing due to photosensitivity that these drugs (and many others) can create.
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