FRIDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Young women say they flock to tanning salons to gain a healthy glow that adds to their natural beauty, protects them from the sun's rays and fills them with self-confidence.
Except none of it is true or lasting.
A deep tan may help project beauty and confidence for a while, but health experts stress that it will eventually give way to permanent skin damage caused by the ultraviolet rays emitted by a tanning bed -- damage up to and including potentially deadly skin cancer.
"We're seeing more young women with melanoma," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. "Based on recent research, we believe it is linked to use of tanning beds."
Also, any notion that a "base tan" can protect a person from a nasty sunburn is just plain wrong, he said.
"There is no such thing as a safe tan," Lichtenfeld said. "A tan is the body's attempt to protect itself from something harmful."
And though most people spend more time in the sun during the summer months, exposure to ultraviolet light has become increasingly a year-round danger.
"The bottom line is excessive UV exposure increases your risk of skin cancer, whether you are indoors or outdoors," said Dr. James Spencer, a dermatologist in St. Petersburg, Fla., who's on the board of directors of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Tanning beds have become a particular hazard. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified the devices as within its highest cancer risk category -- basically as potentially carcinogenic as cigarettes.
Nonetheless, about a third of the 3,800 young women questioned in an American Academy of Dermatology survey released in May said they had visited a tanning salon within the previous year. About a fourth said they used indoor tanning beds at least once a we
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