Tanning lamps can also cause longer-term health effects. Exposure to UV radiation can cause your skin to age more quickly and can increase your risk of developing squamous and basal cell skin cancer. Your risk of developing skin cancer increases with accumulated exposure to UV radiation. There is also scientific evidence that exposure to UV radiation weakens the immune system. This could affect your body's ability to defend against serious illnesses, including the more serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.
Minimizing Your Risks
There are many factors to consider before choosing to use tanning lamps. For example, people with fair skin or a history of sunburn are at greater risk for adverse effects. Also, some medications and cosmetics can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation. Talk to your health care professional about your personal risk factors before you decide whether to use tanning lamps.
If you decide to go ahead, the following steps will help minimize your risk:
- Read the warning labels on the sunlamp or tanning bed you are using and follow the directions carefully.
- If you go to a tanning salon, discuss your skin's sensitivity and your ability to tan with the salon operator. This should help the operator recommend the amount of time for your tanning session and how frequently you should tan.
- Do not exceed the recommended time per tanning session for your skin type.
- Allow at least 48 hours between each tanning session. This will give your skin a chance to repair damage from the UV radiation and may slow down the aging effects caused by the exposure.
- Always wear the safety eyewear that is recommended for the type of lamp you are using.
- Be sure there is a physical barrier, such as a clear sheet of acrylic, between you and the tanning lamp. This will help prevent heat burns from the lamp.
- Report any adverse reaction, such as sunburn or itchiness, to the salon operator. In cases of severe sunburn, see your health care professional.
Do not use tanning lamps more often than is necessary to maintain the colour of tan you want. Users should limit their total number of tanning sessions per year. Remember, the less ultraviolet radiation you get, the better it is for your health.
Get a copy of Health Canada's Guidelines for Tanning Salon Owners, Operators and Users and read it carefully. It contains additional information to help you protect and maintain your health.