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Health Center Today, May 3, 2011

May Is Melanoma Month – UConn Dermatologist Warns of Tanning Bed Dangers

By Carolyn Pennington

As many women prepare for proms and weddings this season, they hope to obtain that healthy glow by heading to the tanning bed salons. But the color you may get from a tanning bed is anything but healthy, says Dr. Hanspaul Makkar, dermatologist with the UConn Health Center. Your risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when you use tanning beds before the age of 35.

“Not only are tanning bed users more vulnerable to melanoma, they're also 2½ times more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and 1½ times more susceptible to basal cell carcinoma,” adds Makkar.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer shifted indoor tanning devices to the highest cancer risk category: "carcinogenic to humans." (They were formerly classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans.")

Makkar says researchers are also finding that tanning can be addictive. For some people, UV radiation can have a drug-like effect; they feel dependent on it, just like smokers do with the nicotine in cigarettes.

Excessive exposure to the sun ---and harmful rays from sunlamps and tanning beds - can cause not only skin cancer and premature aging of the skin but may also cause eye problems, weaken your immune system, and give you unsightly skin spots and wrinkles, or "leathery" skin.

Makkar advises to check your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer. Look for changes in the size, shape, color or feel of birthmarks, moles and spots. If you find any changes or find sores that are not healing, see your doctor.