Indoor Tanning: The Skin Cancer Risk You Don't Know About
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The Tanning "High"
The tanning industry's strategy appears to be to put beds in places people see as "healthy." "Gym members are more likely to use tanning facilities in a health club than elsewhere," says Thijs Fabels, president of UltraSun USA, Inc., an international tanning-bed supplier. "They already feel comfortable there and they don't have to invest the time finding a separate tanning studio." Tanner Cari Goodrich agrees. "I never indoor-tanned before, but it was so convenient at the gym that I got hooked."
"Hooked" is the key word here. Numerous studies support the finding that UV light causes a feel-good endorphin rush, like a runner's high. Intentionally or not, placing tanning beds inside or next to gyms is a perfect way to attract those in search of that boost -- like Kelli Pedroia, 24, of Chandler, Arizona. "It's pathetic to admit," she says, "but I felt a million times better after I tanned. It was a high." Three years into her UV habit, she was diagnosed with melanoma, but even then, she didn't quit. "I was embarrassed by what I was doing, but it didn't stop me," she says. It's not surprising if you consider a 2007 University of California at San Francisco study, which found that 18 percent of indoor tanners exhibit addictive behaviors toward the activity, such as feeling guilt. It took two more cancer scares for Pedroia to get the wake-up call.
But unlike with other addictive substances, "the government doesn't require the same kind of vigilance on indoor tanning beds as it does on cigarettes -- despite the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services has declared ultraviolet radiation a carcinogen," says Dr. Kauvar. However, in September 2007, President Bush signed the Tanning Accountability and Notification Act, which asked the FDA to consider requiring new warning labels on tanning equipment to make the dangers more apparent. (Many feel the current warnings are not strong enough.)
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