The Ugly Truth About Your Beautiful Tan

“Oh my god you look so tan!!!” I exclaimed to my friend when she walked up to lacrosse practice one afternoon in May. For some reason being tan has somehow been associated with looking pretty or healthy or good. My pale friends would pout and whine about their skin tone in the winter, or how they burn in the summer and don’t even end up tan (being half black I’ve never really felt this pain but I have been around enough complaints). So what is their genius solution to this problem? Tanning beds of course. When I first heard that my friends went to tanning beds I was absolutely horrified. To me tanning beds and skin cancer go together just like smoking and lung cancer do. My friends insisted that it was fine, nothing was going to happen to them, and that I was overreacting. Plus, I had told them they looked great!!! So why should they stop? I decided to look into it, and see how strong the connection between tanning beds and skin cancer really is.

A number of conclusions could be drawn by looking at this data. The null hypothesis would be that nothing is going on, meaning that tanning beds have absolutely no effect on your chances of getting skin cancer in the future. However, my hypothesis is that something IS happening: The tanning bed is causing the skin cancer. Obviously this is a hot topic, especially among young people, so there have been an amount of studies on this. I think that the most successful studies they could do would be a study modeled after the longitudinal smoking lung cancer study: They ask young people if they used tanning beds, and then they would follow these people through their lives and see if they were diagnosed with skin cancer later in life. However, there is also a lot of previous information about this issue, so meta-analysis of existing data is also a great way to gather information as stated by epidemiologists Swerdlow and Weinstock here. When looking at studies I also realized that there were a lot of variables that could vary from person to person which would therefore effect the results. Some of the variables that this article mentioned included the wavelengths of UV rays that were emitted over time, the dosage received, and the characteristics of the people in the study (people with light hair, eyes and skin burn more easily and are most at risk).  The Skin Cancer Foundation conducted a meta-analysis which included 88 studies, 406,696 participants, and three geographic regions that showed that the number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is HIGHER than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking each year.

I think that the most mind-blowing thing about these results is that all of this could be avoided!!!!! Smoking is a little harder because you can get addicted to nicotine and actually feel the need to smoke, but tanning is literally just a beauty thing!! I think that it is so ridiculous that someone would but themselves at such a high risk of cancer just to look a little darker. The good news is that there continues to be a lot more education about the dangers of tanning and legislation ( is even being passed. These are the first steps to protect young people from the dangers of tanning.



5 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Your Beautiful Tan

  1. Celine Degachi

    This post is really interesting especially since I can relate about my pale friends constantly complaining about how they wish they were tan. I’ve always known that tanning beds are not the way to go. It’s important to love yourself and the skin you’re in especially when fake tanning can have such a negative effects on your skin. I found a really interesting article that examines why some people depend on tans more than others based off of ethnicity, age and more.

  2. Julia Rose Gallelli


    Your post speaks to me. Why? It’s not because I can’t tan. I’m 100% Italian, so I really haven’t experienced a pale skin time. It speaks to me because I constantly have to worn some of my friends to STOP FAKE TANNING.

    Several studies have surfaced revealing results that prove tanning beds DO IN FACT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING SKIN CANCER. And yet, somehow, people still willingly spend $30-$45 a month to get that crispy golden brown tan. Well, what you’re probably getting with that tan is a side of skin cancer people. You’re thinking, “oh, one time can’t be that bad, right?” Well, it is. Several studies have shown that absorbing UV rays from intensified bulbs in a short amount of time JUST ONCE, yes, is enough for your body to develop skin cancer. Lying under the sun for a long time and absorbing its UV rays is bad enough. So what makes you think intensifying those rays and shortening the amount of time it takes to absorb them is somewhat better for you? IT’S NOT.

    These are all things I have warned my friends about, and they still have yet to listen knowing these scary facts.

    For your interest, here is an article from the Center of Disease Control website that discusses the dangers of tanning. It supports your argument. It is important it is to realize what you are doing to your skin when you just want to look darker:

    Overall, I think your post is well written, supported, organized, informative, and a great choice of topic to share with the class. Great job!

  3. Mansi M Patel

    I relate to you, Randall, because I also have ancestors with darker skin, making me less inclined to sympathize with those who complain of pale skin. I cannot understand why someone would up their risk of cancer simply for appearance! I’ve seen similar crazy statistics and try to understand how a person could just ignore them. Melanoma is more often than not preventable. These people value meeting society’s standards of beauty over their own physical health, which is flat out ridiculous. I’m wondering if it’s possible to treat tanning beds the same way we treat cigarettes. Here is an interesting article discussing tanning and minors, and making it more difficult for people to begin this horrid habit at an early age. The most striking statistic seen in this article is one I hear about so often: “Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent compared with that of someone who has never tanned indoors.” Yikes.

  4. John Carney

    I can relate to this blog because melanoma runs in my family. I was always told to lather up with sunscreen at least twice on a sunny day. The UV rays are extremely strong and can easily cause cancer especially when melanoma already runs in your family like mine. Tanning has become an increasing problem because young woman feel the need to constantly keep a dark skin shade throughout the year, especially summer. Tanning beds are extremely dangerous and people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%. I discovered an article discussing the risk factors of skin cancer and certain methods to prevent it: . Overall this was a very interesting blog and but cancer is an extremely serious thing so stay away from those tanning beds and cover up with sunscreen on sunny days.

  5. Wesley Scott Alexander

    I agree with you, I have always thought that tanning in a tanning bed is stupid, and you are unnecessarily putting yourself at risk for skin cancer. This blog post only strengthens my belief as I now see there is scientific backing to an increased risk of skin cancer, it makes me question the motives of people who tan in tanning beds even more. Because the risk is so high, I wonder if the government should do something to discourage people from tanning in tanning beds so frequently. The healthcare cost of dealing with these skin cancers is most likely very high and therefore the government could save healthcare money by dealing with this issue at the source. Maybe if tanning was more expensive, like the taxes imposed on cigarettes, people would be less likely to do it as often, or even at all?

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