The idea of a sun tan representing health or affluence is a recent trend. Before the 1950’s, people were very conscious of keeping their skin out of the sun. Indeed, someone that was heavily tanned may be thought of as some that worked outdoors in a poorly paid job and exposed to too much sun.
As people became more prosperous in the 1950’s, leisure time became more of a lifestyle choice. People would spend time at the beach or have social activities outdoors. They had money and vacation time to go to warmer and sunnier climates.
Pretty soon an all over tan could indicate affluence or a healthy lifestyle (which is not completely untrue). Looking tanned became desirable to the extent that people would go to the beach or spend time outdoors purely to get a sun tan.
The idea of having a year round sun tan soon became popular. Also, people wanted to get a tan before they started their annual vacation. With demand for these needs to be met, the idea of the sunbed evolved.
Ever since the development of the sunbed they have proved to be very popular. Tanning salons pop up at every mall or shopping center. Many gyms have a tanning salon too which reinforces the link between a tan and a healthy lifestyle.
But the question that most people that use sunbeds have and then prefer to put to the back of their minds is do sunbeds cause cancer ?
The answer is very clear. Any tanning of the skin using ultraviolet (UV) radiation will eventually cause skin cancer. The amount or frequency of exposure may vary from individual to individual, based on things like their skin type or a family history of skin cancer, but eventually it will cause the development of skin cancer.
Many people that use sunbeds may be at pains to point out that the radiation that a sunbed uses is different to the radiation from the Sun. UVB radiation is responsible for burning the skin in the Sun. It has a different frequency to the radiation used in sunbeds. A sunbed uses UVA radiation, that was thought to not be as harmful to the skin. For instance, it does not cause the skin to burn. However, recent research suggests that this is not the case and any UV radiation is harmful to the skin.
The salient point to all this is that any form of tanning of the skin will lead to skin cancer at some point. Maybe you will be fortunate and never reach that point during your life but the aim of skin cancer prevention is to limit a persons exposure to the cause of skin cancer, ultra violet radiation. That is why people should always wear sunscreen when outdoors. They should try to cover their skin with clothing and wear a hat and sunglasses when out in the Sun.
Lying on a sunbed once a week is like going in the sun with none of this protection. Under the circumstances, it seems like a potentially high price to pay to have a ‘healthy’ tan.