1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Indoor Tanning Booths

Are Indoor Tanning Booths Safe?


Updated June 19, 2014

Every year more than one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States. Despite this fact, hundreds of thousands of people routinely visit tanning salons.

Are tanning booths less dangerous than tans from the sun? The fact is that the UVA rays that are emitted from the Ultraviolet A light sources in tanning salons are two to three times more powerful than the UVA rays which occur naturally from the sun.

Scientists and most lay people agree that solar radiation is damaging to our skin. The first effect of sun damage that we notice is that our skin may become pink, red, or blistered from a severe burn. Forms of photosensitivity including drug reactions and sun poisoning may also be initiated by tanning salon exposure.

Some who tan not only accept, but expect their skin to pass through these damaging changes. They believe that these damaging skin changes are the path to a deep, golden glow. They want to appear healthy. So they often accept the pink, red, and even severe burns and blisters, as necessary tribulations that must occur.

What are the long-term effects of UV exposure?

Over time, the effects of too much UVA exposure can lead to eye damage, immune system changes, cataracts, wrinkles and premature aging of the skin, and skin cancers. Look at your own skin and compare areas such as the front of your hands and your face to areas that are almost never exposed to solar radiation. The difference in skin texture, tone, wrinkles, ect. that you see are caused by exposure to the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and approximately 90% of all skin cancers can be traced to UV exposure. Skin cancer most often occurs on the face, and almost never on the buttocks, inner thighs, or under the arms. The three main types of skin cancer are melanoma, basal-cell carcinoma, and squamous-cell carcinoma. Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and its incidence is rapidly rising in women under 40.

Who's at Risk?

Skin cancer can happen to anyone, however the risk is greatest for people who:
  • have fair skin.

  • have blonde, red, or light brown hair.

  • have blue, green, or gray eyes.

  • always burn before tanning.

  • burn easily.

  • don't tan easily, but spend a lot of time outdoors.

  • have previously been treated for skin cancer or who have a family history of skin cancer (if you have a family history of melanoma, see your physician for regular skin exams).

  • live in or take regular vacations to high altitudes (Ultraviolet exposure increases with altitude).

  • work indoors all week and try to play "catch up" on the weekend.

Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

As with many cancers, early detection and treatment offers your best chance of remission and survival. Here are some signs that may indicate skin cancer:
  • A skin abnormality that increases in size and appears multicolored, pink, red, black, brown, tan, pearly, translucent, or tan.

  • A mole that changes color, textures, grows, becomes irregular in shape, or that is bigger than a pencil eraser.

  • A spot or growth that continually itches, hurts, becomes crusty, scabs, or bleeds.

  • An open sore that does not heal after 4 weeks or one that heals and reopens.

Regular skin self-exams could save an estimated 4,500 lives annually. Anytime you are concerned about a growth or spot on your skin, it is best to seek the advice of your physician.

Protecting Your Skin

Most of us know the importance of using a sunscreen to help prevent damaging rays from penetrating our skin. Using the proper SPF for your skin type and circumstances may lower your risk of skin cancer, however sunscreens will not undo damage that has already been done to your skin.

Those who seek their tans from tanning salons should be aware of recent research classifying tanning booths as a known carcinogen and keep these points in mind:

  • Those who burn easily or never tan in the sun should not use tanning salons.

  • Check with your pharmacist for possible drug interactions.

  • UV radiation can aggravate cold sores in people who are prone to them.

  • Always use the protective goggles which should be available at the tanning salon. Your eyes can be severely burned by the intense UV rays emitted by the light source.


Artificial Tanning Booths and Cancer. Cancer.gov. http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/tip-sheet-tanning-booths. Accessed 08/26/09.

Tanning Beds Pose Serious Cancer Risk, Agency Says. Cancer.org http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_1_1x_Tanning_Beds_Pose_Definite_Cancer_Risk_Agency_Says.asp. Accessed 09/09/09

Related Video
How to Reduce the Risk of SIDS
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Women's Health
  4. Diseases and Conditions
  5. Dermatology
  6. Safety and Risks of Indoor Tanning Booths

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.