Knoxville (WVLT) - Spring break begins next week for many students across East Tennessee, and many will head to the beach for a little fun in the sun.
Before they go, some may be tempted to hit the tanning bed to build the token "base tan."
But Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard finds out if indoor tanning now could leave you burned later.
Opinions on tanning beds are as broad as the spectrum of ultraviolet light they emit.
Dermatologists have warned us for years indoor tanning can cause skin cancer and should be avoided, but the tanning industry will tell you tanning salons tan people safely, because they warn people about getting burned.
Like millions of college students, Shannon Walker is getting ready to hit the beach for a little fun in the sun. "Well, I'm going to Mexico in two days, and didn't want to be pale."
But Shannon knows all too well how dangerous tanning can be. "My aunt had skin cancer, randomly, so, no more. That's why I'm going to the sunless spray tan."
Dermatologists have warned for years indoor tanning can cause skin cancer and should be avoided.
Still, on an average day, more than a million americans patronize the nation's 50,000 tanning salons.
Dermatologist Matthew Doppelt says the tanning industry has been very successful at promoting the myth of the base tan. A pre-vacation tan that's supposed to protect you from planned sun exposure. "If you go to the tanning bed and you get a tan before you go to the beach, that gives you an SPF of about five."
Doppelt says indoor tanning gives you less protection than a natural sun tan and it's not going to stop you from burning as quickly when you go on vacation.
And radiation doesn't have to cause a sunburn in order to cause cancer. "Regardless of whether you burn or not, you're still getting the exposure to the damaging, ultraviolet rays. A burn just sort of is just a signal to you that you've done too much."
Shannon walker's staying out the sun, and the tanning bed. And sticking to the spray that will give a healthy glow. "I think it's healthier. I'm going to have to use a lot of sunscreen, though!"
And an even healthier future.
When your skin is exposed to UV radiation, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, it makes Vitamin D.
And Vitamin D is good for you. There's evidence it prevents several deadly kinds of cancer.
The tanning industry says that proves indoor tanning is good for you, but dermatologists say tanning beds provide far more radiation than what's needed to get enough Vitamin D.