Despite the common knowledge that indoor tanning, like outdoor sun exposure, places participants at significant risk for skin cancer, patrons continue to flock to indoor tanning salons. What many individuals may not realize is how damaging indoor tanning can also be to their eyes.

Rays of Cancer

The level of harmful ultraviolet rays that are emitted from indoor tanning beds, lamps and booths is up to 100 times greater than the level that you are exposed to from natural sunlight. Studies conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research group of the World Health Organization, have concluded that such tanning devices must be categorized as Group One carcinogens, meaning that the ultraviolet radiation emitted by these machines poses the highest risk for cancer, including melanomas of the skin and eyes. Sadly, the majority of indoor tanning salon patrons consist of young girls in their teens and twenties, an age group that tends to live in the moment and in denial that cancer could ever happen to them. The sobering number, however, is that melanoma claims more than 8,500 lives annually within the United States.

Ocular Risks

Although many tout a tanned physique as a healthy glow, the truth is quite the opposite. Tanned skin is essentially damaged skin, and this damage is cumulative over repeated ultraviolet exposure. The same cumulative route takes effect on your eyes. You may not notice any alarming symptoms for several years, but the damage may already be taking hold on the external and internal structures of yours eyes, orbits and eyelids. Some serious ocular conditions that can result from ultraviolet exposure include:

  • Cataracts
  • Skin cancer around the eye
  • Photokeratitis, a painful sunburn on the cornea of the eye
  • Macular degeneration
  • Cancer of the uvea

Who Is At Increased Risk?

While exposure to ultraviolet rays can pose damaging risks to anyone in any age group, children, teens and young adults under the age of 35 are at greater risk. Studies have also found a link between individuals with blue, green or hazel colored eyes and an increased risk of melanomas of the eye resulting from exposure to ultraviolet rays. Other individuals that have elevated risks for sustaining damage to their eyes when tanning include:

  • Those who have had cataract surgery
  • Those who have undergone photodynamic therapy to treat age-related macular degeneration
  • Those with retinal dystrophy
  • Those taking any medications that increase one's sensitivity to light, including certain antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, certain birth control and estrogen hormone drugs

Shield Your Eyes

Many states require tanning salons to enforce a policy that patrons must wear protective goggles while tanning. Not all states have passed such guidelines, and not all tanners turn to public salons. Since wearing goggles can result in noticeably lighter circles around the eyes, some tanners opt out of wearing them. Closing your eyes while tanning, whether under a indoor tanning lamp or under the natural sun's rays, does not offer any protection against the threats posed ultraviolet radiation. Those that insist on using a tanning lamp should always wear protective goggles that fit snugly, provide proper coverage and are certified to absorb 99-percent or higher of ultraviolet radiation. The goggles may not look as cool as sunglasses, which people have no qualms about donning, but they are the only means of adequate protection for your eyes when tanning indoors.

For more information, contact Dr Ron Sealock or a similar medical professional.