Tanning salons and sunlamp manufacturers beckon to consumers with the lure of a quick, indoor tan. Some may even imply a "safe" tan. But that's just not possible.

Like the sun, sunlamps give off UV radiation both UVA and UVB--and can be harmful. Exposure to UV radiation from sunlamps adds to the total amount of UV radiation your skin accumulates during your lifetime, and increases the risk of skin cancer. Other risks include premature skin aging, skin and eye bums, allergic-type reactions, cataracts, reduced immunity, and blood vessel damage.

FDA has a radiation safety performance standard for sunlamp products. Such products must have a warning label, an accurate timer, an emergency stop control, and include an exposure schedule and protective eyewear.

Tanning devices aren't recommended for anyone, and should never be used if:

You sunburn easily and don't tan. Skin that doesn't tan in the sun probably won't tan with sunlamps either.
You get frequent cold sores. UV radiation may cause them to appear more frequently.
You're taking medicines that can make you more sensitive to UV radiation. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.
If you choose to ignore the risks and seek an indoor tan, follow all the safety precautions. Stick to your time limit. Be sure to wear the goggles provided, making sure they fit snugly and aren't cracked.

Remember that there's no safe tan and there's no safe UV radiation. That's why tanning devices are best avoided altogether.


By --C.J.S.

It's a good rule of thumb to guard against overexposure whenever sunlight is strong enough that you can see your shadow. But you can't rely on your perception of brightness and shadows to gauge UV exposure because your eyes can't see UV wavelengths. Up to 80 percent of UV radiation can pass through clouds. The UV Index can help.

While you should always guard against UV exposure, be extra vigilant when the UV Index is 5 or higher. Remember that exposure doesn't come only from above--snow, sand, water, and even concrete reflect UV radiation. Also, UV radiation increases at higher elevations. The UV Index for mountain cities takes this into account, but keep it in mind if you travel.

Protect your eyes and skin from UV radiation with these simple safeguards:

Wear a wide-brim hat to protect your eyes, ears, face, and the back of your neck.
Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation. Check the label.
Protect as much of your skin as possible with clothing.
Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply every two hours and after swimming.
Avoid midday sun--10 a.m. to 2 p.m.--when UV radiation is strongest.

By --C.J.S.

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