Published August 11, 2009 By Adam Lowenstein

“Tanning beds have been ranked alongside cigarettes, arsenic and asbestos as posing the greatest threat of cancer to humans by an international cancer research group.”- from a Reuter’s news article last week.

Skin cancer is finally being recognized as the significant cancer that has significant morbidity and even mortality. The chief culprit to cause this problem is radiation from the sun, but for those that just can’t get enough sun in the outdoors, the tanning booth has been the go-to option. Finally reports are surfacing that have tagged the dangers of this increased radiation exposure.

Many plastic surgery patients, particularly here in California, and PARTICULARLY here in Santa Barbara, are sun worshippers. No doubt that the sun in moderation is a good thing- even psychiatrists have reported that the sun is the general basis for light therapy and is good for both the mood, as well as converting precursors to Vitamin D which helps your bones with calcium. BUT, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and excessive exposure to the radiation of the sun, which is really what a tanning bed emulates, provides a high risk for skin cancer.

Such radiation can be a causal factor in basal cell cancer, as well as squamous cell cancer, and additionally the more deadly melanoma. But for those more aesthetically inclined, I remind them that even the conditions that are pre-cancerous, such as actinic keratosis, are sun related, and these spots need to be treated too. The treatment for the minor cancers, as well as many of the pre-cancers, may be invasive enough to cause permanent scarring, and nobody wants extra scars on their face. Since the face is one of the most exposed areas on the body- this is often where the lesions manifest themselves.

The take home message- we are gifted in Santa Barbara and most of the rest of California to see the sun in the sky so much of the year, but SUN SCREEN IS A MUST!!!! and….. TANNING BOOTHS ARE A MUST NOT!!!!!


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