One of life's ironies is the fact that a sun tan makes you look glowing with health, when in reality sunbathing is a major cause of skin cancer. Doctors have warned us for many years about the dangers of the sun's UV rays, but now it seems that tanning beds and skin cancer are just as closely linked, according to the World Health Organization.

The Facts about Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America. There are three types: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.  Melanomas are the most deadly and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common.

People with fair skin, red hair, freckles and moles are more susceptible to skin cancer than others and studies suggest they are five times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma. The danger of skin cancer is that if left untreated, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body, tissues and organs and be fatal.

Study into Tanning Beds and Skin Cancer

Doctors know there is a direct connection between exposure to the sun and skin cancer, but studies suggest that there is a similar association between tanning beds and skin cancer.

Related:  How the Sun Ages You

Melanomas are most commonly found on the trunk of the body, which in the case of females is only usually exposed to UV rays during sunbathing, either outdoors or on tanning beds. It was this fact, and the fact that the incidence of skin cancer rates increased during the 1980s when tanning beds were introduced, that led scientists to question the association between tanning beds and skin cancer.

A detailed study published by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed that those who use tanning beds regularly are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used a tanning bed.

In the study, people who had spent more than 50 hours on a tanning bed were three times more likely to develop skin cancer than those who did not. Even more worrying, those who frequently used a high pressure tanning bed were four times more likely to develop skin cancer.

Researchers made other significant findings about the use of tanning beds and skin cancer. They discovered that the risk of melanoma directly increased in line with the amount of exposure, either in total hours or years.

This important study also found that the increased risk of cancer was in users of both high speed machines, which use UVB rays, and high-pressure tanning beds, which emit UVA radiation. As Dr. DeAnn Lazovich concludes, "Data would suggest there is no safe tanning device."

It seems the only safe way to achieve that sun-kissed glow without risking your health is to use a self-tanning lotion.