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February 2020

Love to Tan? You 'Bedder' Believe You Need a Skin Cancer Check

Using a tanning bed—and the intense ultraviolet radiation (UV) you’re exposed to while tanning—puts you at a higher risk for skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form, compared with people who don’t tan indoors.

Tanning bed

Getting your skin checked regularly by your doctor or a dermatologist can help spot skin cancer in its early, most treatable stages. In fact, tanning bed manufacturers have to post this statement on their devices: “Warning: Persons repeatedly exposed to UV radiation should be regularly evaluated for skin cancer.”

If you tan, get checked

A recent study in JAMA Dermatology, however, found that only about 30% of the almost 5,000 indoor tanners surveyed have ever received a full-body skin cancer exam by a physician. 

A skin cancer check is simple. During the exam, a doctor or nurse will look at your skin from head to toe for unusual moles or other colored areas. If anything appears abnormal, the doctor will remove some of the questionable tissue to check for cancer cells in the lab.

Being proactive can pay off. Melanoma is easier to cure if it’s found before it spreads to other parts of the body.

Be on the Lookout

Almost 5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. To catch skin cancer early, see your doctor or dermatologist for regular skin checks. Get to your doctor right away if you have a mole that fits any one of the ABCDE criteria, which are the most concerning signs of a mole:


Asymmetrical. Half of a mole or birthmark is shaped differently than the other half.


The mole has borders that are blurred, jagged, or notched.


Uneven color, including shades of brown, black, pink, or blue.


 Diameter—the mole is larger than a pencil eraser.


Evolving over time—changing in shape, color, or size.

Save your skin and yourself by avoiding tanning indoors and outdoors, using sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater, and staying in the shade.

Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2019
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