A golden bronze glow is still much sought after by millions, despite numerous studies that show a direct link between sun exposure and skin cancer and premature ageing. Millions of people have moved from outdoor tanning to sunbeds in search of the perfect tan, but sunbeds have some of the same harmful side effects as natural sun exposure.
Sunbeds tan skin by using ultraviolet rays. For many years, experts believed that UVB rays alone caused cancer, but studies have shown that all types of UV rays increase the risk of cancer. A 2009 study published in the journal "Lancet Oncology" revealed that when people begin using sunbeds before the age of 30, their risk of skin cancer is increased by 75 per cent. Studies in Norway and Sweden have also shown a much higher risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, in women who are regular sunbed users.
Many people turn to sunbeds because they believe it is impossible to burn in a sunbed. Unfortunately, this is not true. Burns can and do occur in sunbeds, especially among people with fair skin. Exposure to UV rays can also cause dry skin, itching and skin flaking. In addition to being uncomfortable and unsightly, one severe sunburn can increase the risk of melanoma. Sunbed burns could actually cause more damage to the skin because the UVA rays used in sunbeds affect the skin at much deeper levels than UVB rays.
Sun-kissed skin often is seen as the ultimate sign of youthful good health, but repeated exposure to UV rays is a leading cause of premature ageing. UV rays break down collagen in the skin, leading to wrinkles and sagging. UV rays also cause dark spots and uneven pigmentation in the skin. Excessive UV exposure also can increase fine lines and can cause skin to take on an leathery look.
Sunbed salons provide goggles to protect the eyes, but many users do not wear them. Failing to take proper protective measures can cause damage to the corneas, leading to cataracts, as well as eye cancer and macular degeneration. There have also been instances of retinal burns reported with repeated sunbed use. All of these types of damage can lead to blindness. Ophthalmologists recommend skipping sunbeds altogether, but encourage the use of protective goggles if sunbeds are used.