Mikaela Vetters hates to be pale, so when the summer sun slipped
away she turned to tanning beds as a resource to keep her tan.
Vetters is not alone; every year 28 million Americans visit
indoor tanning salons and the number increases yearly, according to
the Indoor Tanning Association.
“I would feel retarded if I didn’t tan because I would glow in
the dark otherwise,” said Vetters, a junior zoology major.
Julia Meyerrose, a senior sociology major, takes a different
approach to her lack of suntan in the winter months.
“I don’t like being pale, but I feel better being pale than I
feel being burned,” Meyerrose said.
Two students, two opinions; yet, Vetter’s plan of tanning
indoors one to two times per week may have serious consequences for
her future health, according to a study released by the American
Academy of Dermatology in May 2001.
Tanning beds emit more UVA radiation than UVB radiation, which
is often associated with sunburn. Therefore, tanning salons were
seen as a safe alternative to outdoor tanning for years, but the
AAD study compared skin biopsies exposed to indoor tanning to
unexposed skin biopsies, concluding that the ultraviolet radiation
emitted by tanning beds causes skin damage and may lead to skin
Claire Smith, clinic coordinator for Hartshorn Health Service,
said the proportion of UV rays in indoor tanning does differ from
outdoor sun exposure, but the same rules apply for protecting skin
from future health consequences, such as cancer.
“Everything in moderation,” Smith said. “Tanning in a salon is
more controlled than tanning outside and you are less likely to get
burned, but the problem is that if you tan year-round you
accumulate damage and put yourself at a higher risk for serious
The AAD reports that in the United States this year, 1 million
new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed. Melanoma, the deadliest
form of skin cancer, accounts for 51,400 of those cases and will
lead to nearly 8,000 deaths this year alone.
For Fort Collins resident Kathy Walter, the statistics are very
real. Her husband, Bill Walter, grew up in Dayton Beach, Fla., and
loved to be outside in the sun, but he never wore sunscreen. In
1995, he was diagnosed with stage-five melanoma and died in 1998 at
Since her husband’s death, Walter’s family and friends founded
the Bill Walter III Melanoma Research Fund and Kathy has become an
advocate for raising awareness of the health consequences of sun
“Our melanoma research foundation believes (tanning salons) are
just as dangerous as the sun,” Walter said. “We don’t approve of
Despite the health warnings, Tara Sparks, manager of Sun Bear
Tanning Salon, said that customers continue to come.
“We have about 700 customers a week now, but in the busy season
of February, March, April and May we have about 2,000 customers a
week,” Sparks said.
Justin Seweryn, a junior natural resources management major,
thinks that the health consequences are just one of the downsides
“I think it’s ridiculous; what’s the point?” Seweryn said.
“You’re not doing yourself any favors health-wise, it’s an
expensive hobby and you’re just taking up your time lying
Erica Michael, manager of Sunset Beach Tanning Salon, said that
while 18- to 35- year-old customers normally opt for traditional
tanning beds at $5 per session, many customers over age 35 use a
spray-on tanning machine, which costs $25 per session.
“People just like to come and relax, get tan and look good,”
Michael said. “The women who used to tan with baby oil when they
were younger tend to come in for the spray-on because it is
quicker, it only takes 28 seconds, and it is aloe-based so it is
good for the skin.”
Michael acknowledges that any kind of tanning has consequences
and people need to be smart about how often they expose their skin
to UV rays.
“(Sunset Beach) tends to be a little bit conservative. We don’t
let people tan every day and try to discourage them from going for
the full time,” Michaels said. “You can get a smart tan or you can
abuse your body. We try to encourage smart tanning.”