Tanning Safely
North Atlanta Dermatology
Gabrielle Sabini, MD Gabrielle Sabini, MD

Melanoma and tanning

Anyone can get melanoma, but it’s important to know that tanning may create an increased risk. This is especially true if tanning occurs over a period of years because damage to the skin accumulates. Premature aging of the skin (wrinkles) will occur in everyone who is repeatedly exposed to the sun over a long period of time. Damage may be less apparent and take longer to show up in people with darker skin.

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin that colors our skin, hair, and eyes. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but some are skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Most can be treated successfully if they are detected at an early stage. If melanoma is not detected at an early stage, it can spread to other parts of the body and is potentially a lethal form of cancer.

Sun lamps and tanning beds are not necessarily safer than natural sunlight. Most sun lamps and tanning beds emit mainly UVA radiation; these so-called “tanning rays” are less likely to cause sunburn than the UVB radiation from sunlight. Contrary to the claims of some tanning salons, this does not make them safe; in fact, they may cause deeper skin damage. UVA rays have a suspected link to melanoma, and like UVB rays, they also may be linked to immune system damage and premature skin aging.

Remember that while the ABCDE rule (see sidebar below) can help detect many melanomas, there are some that do not show these signs. Melanoma specialists have developed a new method of sight detection for skin lesions that could be melanoma. This new method of sight detection for skin lesions is based on the concept that these melanomas look different compared to surrounding moles. Everyone should have a yearly full body exam with a board certified dermatologist for the detection and treatment of all types of skin cancers

Melanoma Warning Signs

Asymmetry: Lesion looks different on one side than the other
Border: Edge of the lesion is irregular
Color: Melanomas usually have multiple colors
Moles greater than 6 mm are more likely to be melanomas than smaller moles.
Evolving: Lesion is getting bigger over time.


North Atlanta Dermatology
(770) 814-8222