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Warning: healthy looking skin may be dying.


Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) has historically been associated with increased risk for skin cancer. The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta indicates that more than 500,000 cases of basal and squamous cell cancer on portions of sun-exposed areas of the body occur each year. Additionally, UV is associated with inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that lines the eyelids and is reflected onto the eyeball) and with development of cataracts and skin aging.

Despite these dangers, increasing numbers of tanning salons and tanning devices are available to the public. "An estimated 2 million persons nationwide used 10,000 commercial tanning facilities in 1985....In 1986, approximately 700 U.S. burn injuries were related to suntan booths, and approximately 2,600 burn injuries were related to sunlamps."

The Wisconsin Division of Health recently produced reports from 31 dermatologists, 115 ophthalmologists and 141 emergency-room physicians or facilities, which should give potential users some need for reflection. Thirteen dermatologists had treated 65 persons for cutaneous burns after using reflector lamps or bed/booth devices. The ophthalmologists reported that 152 persons had been treated for eye injuries associated with the use of tanning devices, including corneal injuries (129), corneal and retinal injury (4), and unspecified injuries to the eyes (19). Thirty-seven individuals (24 percent) had worn safety goggles during their tanning. Fifty-three percent of the patients treated by ophthalmologists had used bed/booth devices, 17 percent had used reflective bulbs, 11 percent used mercury vapor lamps, and 20 percent used unspecified UV devices.

Emergency-room personnel reported treating 155 patients for skin burns, including approximately 68 percent with first-degree burns, 25 percent with second-degree burns and 11 percent with unspecified types of burns. The burns occurred following use of bed/booth devices, reflector lamps or natural light.

Extreme care to avoid overexposure to the sun and avoidance of suntanning devices, whether in a tanning salon or at home, is urged. The risks involved may be more than cosmetic!
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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