Research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) adds melanoma to the growing list of serious health problems linked to tanning bed use. From simple allergies to deadly melanoma skin cancer, the long-term effects of frequent indoor tanning are still not fully understood. But the consequences are serious enough to have prompted a host of completed and future studies on the subject. The 2009 National Cancer Institute findings led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to call for a review of its warnings on machines about the dangers of tanning.
Skin damage from allergic reactions to tanning machine treatments may be limited to a red, itchy rash, but with long exposure on sensitive skin, symptoms may become chronic. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that repeated exposure may cause thick, scaly skin.
During indoor tanning, UVA radiation penetrates your epidermis, damaging skin tissue on the way to attacking your cellular DNA. Skin damage may lead to the early onset of wrinkles and poor skin tone. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that long UV light exposure may result in cancer-causing gene mutations in your DNA.
Indoor tanning can result in irreversible eye damage, according to the FDA. Some people who don’t want facial tan irregularities take risks by not wearing protective eye goggles. Improper use of goggles greatly increases your risk for eye injury. Other eye dangers of tanning include a higher chance of developing ocular melanoma.
Immune System Damage
The penetrating UVA rays emitted by tanning machines cause deep skin damage in the dermal nerves and blood vessels. Long exposure may affect this pathway, compromising the immune system. If your immune response becomes less effective, note the National Institutes of Health, you’ll be vulnerable to autoimmune diseases such as asthma and type 1 diabetes.
Wrinkles and Age Spots
The dangers of tanning include skin damage that shows physical signs much sooner than those brought on by natural aging. The Skin Cancer Foundation relates that harmful UVA rays disrupt your body’s collagen and elastin synthesis, causing wrinkles where collagen is depleted and leathery skin where elastin fails to repair itself. While some cosmetic treatments may improve the appearance temporarily, the condition is irreversible.
Lowered immunity and mutations to cellular DNA increase your risk for cancer posed by indoor tanning. The FDA cites findings by IRAC researchers that link tanning machines to squamous cell cancer, skin melanoma and ocular melanoma, based on 25 years of studies. The risk for melanoma increased by 75 percent in people who started tanning before age 35. The carcinogenic dangers of tanning can be life threatening, as some forms of skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body.