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10 year old Welsh girl Kelly Tho ...

Posted Jun 10 2009 6:43pm

10 year old Welsh girl Kelly Thompson ended up with 70% burns over her body after spending 16 minutes in a coin-operated sun tanning bed. Another 14 year old Welsh girl Kristy McRae underwent a 19minute session and had severe burns to her body requiring her to be hospitalized as well. 13 year old Kieron Saunders spent 21 minutes in a self tan booth and had burn blisters. With stories like this, its no wonder both doctors, concerned parents and the general public are taking an interest in the usage of unmanned suntanning beds and booths, and want stricter regulations and guidelines, as well as scrapping unmanned sunbeds altogether.


Sun exposure is important in the body’s formation of Vitamin D. Without sun exposure, there is insufficient Vitamin D in the body as the amount obtained through oral consumption is meagre, and will lead to a higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. According to research, just 5-15minutes of sun exposure 4-6 days of the week is sufficient to maintain adequate Vitamin D absorption to reduce osteoporosis risk. This level was considered achievable by the general public as ou would be likely to be reaching this limits as part of normal daily activity, even with sun protective methods. There are other purported health benefits as well, although more evidence is required to substantiate them. These include possible benefits to cancers of the prostate, breast, non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

However, the greatest concern in prolonged sun exposure, in particular ultraviolet (UV) light, is the development of skin cancer. The link is well established, leading to many campaigns for sun protection. Indoor tanning actually came about as a medicinal use to promote a safe alternative to outdoor exposure to UV light and at the same time getting the health benefits associated with sunlight. Nowadays, the tanning salon and industry has grown substantially, and has become more of a cosmetic business instead. It is estimated to be worth more than $1billion in the United States alone and $6billion worldwide. 


Light emitted from tanning equipment contains approximately 40% less UVB rays (the harmful rays) than from direct sun exposure. Tanning beds are supposed to be able to control the exposure time, and the ratio of UVA to UVB. However, indoor tanning is not risk free. There is still increased risk of skin cancers like melanomas, burns, and photoaging.


Many teens use indoor tanning services, and many tanning advertisments target this population. Young white women are cosmetically and socially motivated to tan. Tanning can be addictive, so there are regulations drawn up to limit teenage tanners. However, these regulations are poorly enforced, leading to many stories of burnt teenagers, and many teens with an increased risk of skin cancers. More can be done to enforce penalties to tanning salons, and to abolish any unsupervised tanning booths. 

Indoor tanning may not offer any benefit over moderate sun exposure to reduce the risk of skin cancer or photoaging. Healthy sun protection is more important as daily activities will give us enough Vitamin D to meet our requirements. Sunless tanning products can serve as a safer alternative to indoor tanning, but it does not omit the need for suncreen and proper sun protection.

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