Skip to navigation menu Skip to content
Please click here to read our COVID-19 policies and resources before your visit or appointment. X


Teen girl in a tanning bed

Tanning Bed Dangers

By Dr. Kate Crandley, Tidewater Children's Associates

As the sun sets later each day and temperatures rise, so does the temptation for many adolescents to start working on a tan. Unfortunately, many studies show that too much exposure to UV rays increases the risk for skin cancer – the most common type of cancer nationwide.

Whether you sunbathe outdoors or head to a tanning salon, tanned skin is actually your body’s response to injury, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skin cells produce more pigment in response to damaging ultraviolet rays.

Still, many young women and teenagers – especially white teenage girls – use indoor tanning to darken their skin. Studies have found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, in people who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The risk for melanoma increases with each use.

It’s why the AAP recommends that children and adolescents younger than 18 should not use tanning beds. “There is no safe level of tanning bed use for young people,” wrote Dr. Sandra G. Hassink, former AAP president, in a statement on tanning bed use. “Exposure to ultraviolet radiation causes skin cancer, and tanning beds are designed to directly expose the skin to radiation in amounts several times greater than that provided by natural sunlight.”

Here are three ways parents can help steer their children away from indoor tanning:

Set a good example.

CDC authorities say teens and young adults are more likely to use indoor tanning if they believe their parents are okay with it. Research shows that teens often start tanning with a friend or a family member. One in three people who use indoor tanning devices started the habit before they turned 18.

Practice sun safety.

Teach your children from an early age about the importance of protecting their skin from sunburn. Avoid being in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest. Remember to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against ultraviolet A and B rays. Make sure your child wears a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a long-sleeved shirt. Seek the shade when you’re outdoors.

Talk about skin cancer prevention.

Help your child understand that indoor tanning can cause skin cancers including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. UV ray exposure also causes cataracts and cancers of the eye, according to the CDC.

Like this post?

Sign up to receive our once monthly email with more kids' health tips from the region's most trusted name in pediatric health care.

About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.