• Question: barbara@ is it safe to use a sun bed?

    Asked by 534genb52 to Barbara on 18 Mar 2015.
    • Photo: Barbara Shih

      Barbara Shih answered on 18 Mar 2015:

      Unfortunately not. I guess how “unsafe” would depend on how you use it, but if you’re aiming for a tan, chances are you have damaged your skin. DNA damage occur even when you don’t get a sunburn. UV from the sunbed (or the sun) is able to cause a slight change in the shape of DNA in skin; this is normally repaired, but if someone regularly expose themselves to a lot of damage (from sunbed or outdoor sun), some damage can escape the repair mechanism and become mutations, leading to cancers. Also, they used to think only UVB causes DNA damage, but it’s only in the more recent years that they realized UVA is just as harmful (they might say “they only use the tanning UV in sunbed” but that would be old/incorrect information).

      Sunbed use is particularly bad for teenage users – research have found that the earlier age an individual starts using sunbed, the greater risk it is for them to develope deadly melanoma by the age of 40. We have seen people coming in with a lot of skin cancers in their 20s because they’re a regular sunbed user. Skin cancer isn’t even the whole story – UV is what makes our skin age, so people who regularly do tanning (sunbed or outdoor sun) would grow wrinkles earlier/have more wrinkles than normal. You can find pictures of “photoaging in twins” to see the difference! (or google “truck driver aging” – you can see the side of his face that’s regularly exposed to the sun aged much quicker than the other side of his face).