From Your Doctor

Doctor-recommended health information

Medical Expert Opinion:
Tanorexia and Indoor Tanning

By Published October 29, 2012

  • What is wrong with a "healthy tan"?

The popular t.v. show Jersey Shore introduced the world to a way of living known as "GTL" -- gym, tan, laundry. While we can't argue against the virtues of maintaining your figure or keeping your clothes clean, we do take issue with tanning on a daily basis.

Tanorexia is a relatively new term to describe people who suffer from the need to over-tan. Psychologists believe people feel pressure to tan because of lack of positive body image or peer pressure from looking too pale. A 2010 study discovered that 27% of surveyed college students in the U.S. have a psychological dependence on tanning in ultraviolet (UV)-light beds and booths.

The bad news is that just like cigarettes and smoking, there is no safe amount of tanning that can be done. The dangers of tanning beds are in their exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays. While the tanning bed industry would like you to think that only the "safe" ultraviolet rays are used, this just isn't the case. Ultraviolet A, which is predominately found in tanning beds, penetrates more deeply into the skin than ultraviolet B. This leads not only to skin cancer, but is also a major cause of early wrinkling and leathery skin.

A scary fact is that tanning bed use before the age of 30 leads to a 75% increased risk of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In fact, we are seeing an epidemic of cancers in young women and men after the tanning bed industry boom. The National institutes of Health (NIH) found melanoma rates have tripled in the last 30 years. This alarming statistic and the increase in skin cancers in tanning bed users caused the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to reclassify tanning beds as a class I carcinogen.

If you absolutely must lie in the sun, I recommend lathering on the sunscreen. I suggest using a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of, at least, 30 and to reapply every 30 minutes.

So what's the take home message? Spray it on or go natural! In other words, GSL--gym, spray, laundry—or GLL—gym, lather, laundry--is the way to go.

About the Doctor

Marta Rendon, M.D.
880 N.W. 13th Street, Suite 3C
Boca Raton, FL

Marta I. Rendon, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice at The Dermatology and Aesthetic Center in Boca Raton Florida and is Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She is the former chairperson of the Department of Dermatology of Cleveland Clinic Florida, and staff physician for Southwestern Medical School Dallas, Texas.

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