Pundits say any UV tan is unsafe

Denise Vastola

When someone asks if you want a cocktail or a triple dip, hopping between a tanning booth and a UV-free spray tan booth are not the first things that come to mind, but that’s what Mimi Jensen, proprietor of A Tan for All Seasons in Northridge, said she offers her clients.

Jensen added the Magic spray tan booth to her business in December 2007 to give her clients a safer way to achieve that golden glow Southern Californians crave.

Despite numerous studies that warn of the dangers of skin cancer from the UV rays of indoor or outdoor tanning, Jensen said most customers haven’t stopped using her tanning booths. Instead, they’ve added the spray tan option.

“Because my background is skin care, I remind them to work in a spray or to do a lotion with a little self-tanner and a little bronzer and go less time in the bed,” said Jensen. “The person who wants to come in here every day for the maximum amount of time is the client I turn away. I’m not interested in that client. I think it’s unsafe what their practices are, so I try and make it more of a controlled environment and limit the exposure to the (ultraviolet rays) and work in sprays and bronzers.”

Steven Oppenheimer, director at CSUN’s Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology, said the ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from tanning booths is not good for the skin.

“At worst, it could cause deadly skin cancer like melanoma,” said Oppenheimer. “At best, it causes premature aging of the skin. The sun destroys the elastic fibers in the skin. You might have a healthy looking color when you tan, but overexposure to ultraviolet radiation and tanning salons is not good.”

Oppenheimer says there is no such thing as safe tanning when ultraviolet radiation is involved and his comments are confirmed by the National Cancer Institute. Its Web site says that nearly everyone who goes to tanning salons frequently, or exposes themselves to the sun, is at risk for skin cancer.

The NCI estimates in the United States in 2008 there will be more than 1 million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 1,000 deaths, as well as more than 62,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer and 8,420 deaths.

“Melanoma is one of the few cancers that kill young people,” said Oppenheimer. “Melanoma can hit very young people.”

Lawrence Osman, MD, a dermatologist, says about 60 percent of his patients with skin cancer are men and 40 percent are women.

“I have seen 20-something-year-olds and even a teen in my practice who has had skin cancer,” said Osman, who has been practicing in the Northridge area for the past six years. “Every sunburn increases your risk of getting cancer. Your skin holds a grudge from any sun exposure.”

If people really must tan, Oppenheimer says the artificial tanning lotions are acceptable, because he hasn’t seen any reports thus far that these products are detrimental to the skin.

Tanning salon owner Jensen, who has given up tanning booths and uses the UV-free spray tan nearly weekly, says the product is a natural sugar cane derivative.

Perhaps then, passing on the cocktail or the triple dip and asking for the sugar is the right way to go to achieve that sunny glow year ’round.

For more information about any type of cancer, go to the National Cancer Institute Web site at www.cancer.gov.