Section Three- Tanning Dangers

UV radiation, particularly UVA radiation, is known to affect white blood cell function in the immune system. It can also trigger certain viruses (such as cold sores) to appear, multiply or increase in size. UVA radiation, because of its deeper penetration, can also damage connective tissue within the epidermis, resulting in premature aging of the skin (wrinkles).

Skin cancer is another tanning danger. As of June, 2009, the World Health Organization classified indoor UV-emitting tanning devices as human carcinogens (cancer-causing). For individuals who begin using indoor tanning devices at a young age and continue using them up through the age of 30, the risk of contracting skin cancer is increased by 75%.  Light-skinned individuals are more susceptible than dark-skinned individuals.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. One out of every five people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer during his or her lifetime. There are three basic types of skin cancer:

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma – Cancer cells enlarge slowly and steadily and can invade neighboring tissue, like the eye, but they usually do not spread to distant parts of the body.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Cancer cells enlarge slowly and steadily and can invade neighboring tissue. They can also spread to distant parts of the body (metastasize) if not treated early.
3. Malignant Melanoma (“Black Mole” Cancer) – The most dangerous form of skin cancer, yet often the least benign in appearance.  Once it grows to a certain thickness it metastasizes. After spreading to the internal organs, little can be done to stop its progress.

UV exposure to the eye can also be dangerous. Studies show that over-exposure can damage the cornea (external coating of the eye) and the retina (image-receiving membrane for the eye’s lens). Repeated exposure over many years can change the structure of the eye lens so that it begins to cloud. Damage is permanent, resulting in blind spots and cataracts.

Additionally, certain eye colors are more susceptible to UV light. The color of your eyes represents the pigments meant to let in the most light while protecting your eyes as much as possible from UV radiation. Green is the most susceptible, followed by blue, brown and black.