Can radiation cause skin cancer

Four facts about tanning beds and skin cancer

1. Can visits to the solarium cause skin cancer?

Radiation from the sun can cause skin cancer - the same applies to radiation in the solarium, as all experts agree. The International Agency for Cancer Research has therefore classified UV radiation in the highest cancer risk level - both natural radiation from the sun and artificially generated radiation from the solarium. Alcohol and asbestos, for example, were also classified in this category.

When UV radiation penetrates the skin, it damages the genetic material - the DNA mutates. Some of this damage can be repaired, but some cells die or become tumors. This can happen years after the actual irradiation.

To protect the DNA, the skin changes color. If it is exposed to radiation more often, it will get darker. A protective mechanism that prevents sunburn, but does not completely protect against the effects of the rays. The Dermatological Prevention Working Group therefore says: There is no such thing as a healthy tan for light skin types, the skin remembers every ray of sunshine.

And that applies to natural solar radiation outside as well as to targeted radiation in the tanning salon. The difference is that in the solarium you are exposed to UV radiation, but it is precisely regulated how much UV light reaches the body.

When it comes to the question of how high the risk is of developing skin cancer from visits to the tanning beds, the frequency and dose are of course important. However, dermatologists advise avoiding sunbathing altogether. And the WHO also warns: The risk of developing a malignant, black skin cancer is significantly higher among sunbed users, especially at a young age.

2. Is the UV radiation stronger in the solarium than outside?

How much UV light can be irradiated in a solarium is regulated by law. The maximum: The radiation can be as strong as from the sun when it shines vertically from the sky at the equator at noon.

A big difference between natural solar radiation and that in the solarium is the ratio of UVA to UVB radiation. Both forms of UV radiation are carcinogenic, but UVB radiation is often filtered out in the solarium because this enables a quick tan.

3. Can you pre-tan in the solarium?

Vacation on the beach is just around the corner and many want to prepare their skin: Pre-tanning should prevent you from getting sunburned when you arrive at the vacation spot. After all, the sun is usually much stronger on site than at home: a real shock for the skin.

But pre-tanning in the solarium is viewed critically by dermatologists, as the UVB radiation is filtered out of the light, depending on the setting of the device. This means that the skin tans faster, but there is hardly any protection against sunburn.

However, experts also generally warn against feeling too safe if the skin has tanned: the risk of sunburn is lower, but the DNA of the cells is still damaged by the sun's radiation. Pre-tanning in the solarium hardly reduces the risk of skin cancer.

4. Does a visit to the solarium help against vitamin D deficiency?

In order for the body to produce enough vitamin D, it needs sunlight. In winter in particular, the idea of ​​filling up the vitamin store by visiting the tanning bed is obvious. But dermatologists advise against it:

The body needs UVB radiation for vitamin D production. This penetrates deeper into the skin and causes the so-called previtamin D to be produced from a vitamin D precursor. This can then be processed further in the liver and kidneys.

If the light consists mainly of UVA radiation, vitamin D production is not boosted. With many devices, sunbathing does not have a major effect on the vitamin D storage.

However, there are also tanning salons whose solariums are geared towards vitamin D production with a lot of UVB radiation. Doctors nevertheless advise against it: Anyone who has or suspects a vitamin D deficiency should discuss this with a doctor and not treat it themselves.