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Tanning Beds

March 29, 2007

A listener asks: Is artificial tanning better than baking in the sun?


Step away from the tanning bed. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

You know that baking in the sun’s ultraviolet rays damages your skin and may lead to premature aging and cancer. But with bathing-suit season on its way, Jessica Vega of Gainesville, Florida, emailed to ask whether tanning beds are a better solution. We turned to dermatologist Stephen Stone of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

STEPHEN STONE (Southern Illinois University School of Medicine):
No, tanning with a tanning bed is definitely not better than sitting out in the sun. The degree of tan that you get is a sign of damage to your skin, and whether it’s natural ultraviolet or artificial ultraviolet, a given tan is a given sign of injury.

For those who want a tan but don’t want wrinkles, he suggests using sunless tanning lotions inside and a strong sunscreen outside.

If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.