Is Indoor Tanning Safe? 4 Health Risks

As experts say, a tan is always a sign of skin damage. Indoor tanning is a popular method of getting a tan using devices such as a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp.

But just like unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, this form of tanning is also linked to a number of health risks. Here are four of them you should know about.

1. Infection

While the beds at tanning salons have to be cleaned before a customer hops on, frequent use by different people still poses a risk. Another factor is that they are designed to induce sweating, which could promote the growth of the bacteria or virus.

"If the tanning bed isn’t clean, you can also get a serious skin infection with symptoms like genital warts, skin rashes, skin warts, and flaky, discolored patches on your skin," said Dr. Gery P. Guy Jr. from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Eye damage

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning could potentially damage both the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids.

Cataracts, for example, are caused by overexposure to UV radiation in around 20 percent of cases. Other possible risks include inflammation of the cornea, damage to membranes inside the eyelids and eye sockets, and even a form of cancer affecting the uvea.

Goggles specifically designed for indoor tanning are to be worn during the session since merely closing your eyes cannot stop the radiation from penetrating. But the risk is still significantly higher as opposed to simply avoiding indoor tanning.

3. Skin cancer

With regards to cancer risk, many people are under the false impression that the latter is much safer than natural UV. But experts noted the UVA radiation emitted by fluorescent bulbs is several times more intense than the same in natural sunlight.

More than half of all melanoma cases (approximately 65 percent) are linked to UV exposure, primarily either from the sun or from indoor tanning. The World Health Organization has also classified indoor tanning devices as being "carcinogenic to humans," which is the highest cancer risk category.

4. Addiction

Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, led a study featuring frequent indoor tanners who had a dependence on tanning. By examining their brain activity, he found tanning-bed sessions activated the reward centers of their brain, explaining why some may continue tanning even after developing skin cancer.

To test this further, he also used a filter to block out UV radiation in some cases without informing the participants. In these instances, the brain activity did not show the same kind of blood flow while participants themselves reported feeling unsatisfied afterward.