Dermatologist Explains Tanning Risks As Bill Advances

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)- A bill that would keep Arkansans under the age of 18 from tanning has now reached the Arkansas house floor for voting.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and dermatologists are seeing an increase right here in the River Valley.

"We see a lot of melanoma in this area," dermatologist Dr. Garrett Nelson said. "[Melanoma] is the most deadly form of skin cancer and it is the form that can occur in young people, especially females."

For many of those cases, dermatologists say tanning is to blame.

"Ultraviolet radiation causes DNA damage and leads to skin cancer," Dr. Nelson said. "We know that tanning lamps at tanning salons emit this ultraviolet radiation."

That skin damage is what has lead lawmakers around the country to take a stand against tanning, including neighboring states, Louisiana and Texas, who have already passed bills against tanning.

"This is the same designation that has been given to tobacco products," Dr. Nelson said. "We do limit tobacco products in the under 18 population and that's what we are trying to do with tanning beds, as well."

Dr. Nelson said there are alternative options to tanning, though.

"There's no safe form of tanning," Dr. Nelson said. "If you insists on having a tan, that's fine, but there are alternatives including self tanning products and spray-on tans."

Dr. Nelson said there is a delay period between exposure and seeing signs of skin cancer, so you may not see the negative effects of tanning immediately.

"I think the evidence is overwhelming that ultraviolet radiation damages your skin and lead to skin cancer, wrinkles, and eye damage," Dr. Nelson said. "I think anything we can do to protect our children from this is something we need to pursue."

If the bill makes it out of House, it will then go to the Senate.

To see the full bill proposed, visit the Arkansas State Legislature website. 

The bill was filed by Rep. Stephen Magie, D-Conway.


  • Marc Sorenson

    This story is one-sided, as it ignores the fact that the highest risk of melanoma is among men over 50, hardly the demographic that uses tanning beds. To balance the message, let’s also look at the scientifically-documented healthful effects of sunbeds:
    • Sunbed use is associated with a reduced risk of clots.
    • Sunbed use is associated with increased vitamin D levels.
    • Sunbed use is associated with stronger bones
    • Sunbed use can cure psoriasis and eczema and tanning beds are often recommended by dermatologists.
    • Sunbed use more than three times yearly is associated with a 40-50% reduced risk of endometrial cancer.
    • Sunbed use is associated to lower breast-cancer risk.
    • Sunbeds are able to take winter vitamin D levels up to summer levels in a period of five weeks. Vitamin D is absolutely necessary to optimal human health.
    • A 20-year study demonstrated that both sun exposure and sunbed exposure reduced the risk of death; women who used tanning beds were 23% less likely to die of any cause than women who did not use them.
    The keys to safe sunbed use are the same keys as for safe sun exposure: Don’t burn and don’t use sunscreen. Sunscreen use has increased dramatically in the past few decades. During that same period, melanoma has increased by 3,000%. Don’t be taken in by the anti-sun movement.
    To learn more, and to read all of the scientific documentation regarding tanning beds and sun exposure, visit the sunlight institute at

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