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The Dangers of Tanning

By: Melinda Taschetta-Millane
Posted: June 28, 2011, from the 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.”