By Bill Couzens, Founder Less Cancer

Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you’ve had one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage.

The Skin Cancer Foundation tells us that a tan, whether you get it on the beach, in a bed, or through incidental exposure, is bad news any way you acquire it. Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you’ve had one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage. No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), as well as skin cancer.

Tanning machines emit dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual ultraviolet radiation they would receive from regular sun exposure.

UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen and is linked with a higher risk of all forms of skin cancer including potentially deadly melanoma, which is the most common form of cancer among young adults 25-29 years old. On average, indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanomas than non-tanners. They are also 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, the two most common skin cancers.

Who are the scientists?

Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, Md. Ph.D., a Less Cancer Board Member, was the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the UPMC Cancer Center.

In 1968, Dr. Herberman was a senior investigator in the immunology branch of the National Cancer Institute where he organized a research program related to tumor and cellular immunology. In 1971 he became head of a newly established cellular and tumor immunology section in the laboratory of Cell Biology of the National Cancer Institute. During this period he had responsibility over a research program made up of several investigators who were researching cell mediated immune response to tumors in animal model systems and patients with cancer. As a result of this research, a new category of lymphocytes was discovered and termed natural killer (NK) cells. Since then, much of Dr. Herberman’s research has been focused on the characterization of these natural effector cells and on their role in resistance to cancer growth.

Currently Dr. Herberman is Chief Medical Officer for Intrexon Corp., which specializes in innovative approaches to immunotherapy for the treatment and prevention of cancer. Dr. Herberman is responsible for overall leadership of Intrexon’s expanding anti-cancer clinical programs and related regulatory affairs.

What the Scientists Say.

Dr. Herberman is particularly concerned that the incidence of melanoma is rising rapidly and that “burns from UV lights are central contributors to increased risk of melanoma.” He goes on to say that although “low level exposure to UV light either from sun or tanning beds will help maintain levels of Vitamin D, one can readily eat vitamin D-containing foods or nutritional supplements without running the risk of over-exposure to UV. The particular danger is to avoid exposure that will lead to an actual burn because that has been shown to put people at risk many years later for malignant melanomas.”

More and More localities are looking at restricting tanning beds for teenagers.