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The Dangers of Tanning

Melinda Taschetta-Millane July 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Americans know better, yet they still insist on sun bathing and using tanning beds.

At the current rate, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), approximately 75% of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma, which has been on the rise for at least 30 years. “Exposure to UV radiation is the leading risk factor for skin cancer, yet—despite this knowledge—droves of teens and young women are flocking to tanning bed facilities, and beaches or pools to tan every year,” says Ronald L. Moy, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “The challenge is that teens have access to indoor tanning salons on almost every corner. A recent survey of 116 U.S. cities found an average of 42 tanning salons per city, which means tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbucks or McDonald’s. We are very concerned that this tanning behavior will lead to a continued increase in the incidence of skin cancer in young people and, ultimately, more untimely deaths from this devastating disease.”

In May’s Vocal Point online survey (, we asked our audience: What actions do you take in your community to raise awareness about the importance of sunscreen and the dangers of tanning? We received many insightful answers. Following are just a few.

Madonna Bailey, owner of Lady Madonna Spa in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, creates a newsletter that she distributes to local schools warning of the dangers of skin cancer and its effects on peoples’ lives. At the spa, she shows videos of people who have been sun worshippers to visually show their sun damage and aging. “Tanning booth owners need to make their clients aware also, even if it impacts their business,” she emphasizes. “We also have business cards for local dermatologists, and we refer people who have a questionable skin rash or condition. We also promote annual dermatologist checkups.”

Yvonne Gailey, co-owner of Pure Skin in Chico, California, takes on a very personal approach. “I will always stop anyone that I see—young or old—in my shop or around town when I notice beautiful, untanned skin. I congratulate them on using protection for their skin and, if they are young, let them know that they are very wise in their decision and that SPF is necessary every single day wherever they are or whatever they are doing,” she says. “It’s a personal approach, and it comes very naturally. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t talk with someone out in public about SPF, and how it protects the largest organ of the body.”

And, education is always key. “We have started monthly health fairs to educate the community about the importance of proper skin care,” states Raquel Crawford, lead medical esthetician at Beaux Arts Institute of Plastic Surgery in Baltimore. “We inform our clients about avoiding tanning and using appropriate sunscreen. We also talk about the benefits of using mineral makeup, and we incorporate other beauty and health professionals in the area as well to help with our educational efforts.”

Sandra Evans, esthetician at JW Marriott’s Spa at Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, takes a similar community approach. “I have worked with parent groups at schools to provide mandatory shaded areas for the children, raising awareness to the dangers that they are exposed to without adequate protection from the sun,” she shares. “It is now policy for all existing schools, as well as new ones, to have shaded areas.”

Saundra Grill, CEO of Skin Rejuvenation Center and Spa in Danvers, Massachusetts, educates by example. “I give out samples of sunscreen, show clients their skin under a Wood’s lamp, display pictures of actual sun damage at my facility, and explain what the sun and tanning does to the skin on a cellular level, showing a picture of the damaged cell.”

What role are you playing to help educate your clients, as well as other consumers within your community, about the importance of sun protection and the dangers of tanning beds? To read additional responses from your peers, log on to We are in the thrust of the summer months, so sharing your expertise with the community is extremely timely and important—make a difference in someone’s life this summer through education.