‘Base’ tans offer little protection

WASHINGTON — A lot of the people who hit tanning salons this time of year are young women who hope to get a base tan before going to the beach. Turns out, they are making a big mistake.

“There is this urban myth out there that if you get a tan in the tanning salon before you go to the beach that is going to be protective,” says Dr. Bernard Cohen, a pediatric dermatologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine.

He says nothing is further from the truth.

Cohen says there is clinical evidence that at best, someone who goes to a tanning salon will get a sun protective factor — or SPF — of two or three.

He says this base tan gives people a false sense of security, and they will then go to the beach and skimp on the sunscreen.

“They are not getting protected and they add insult to injury,” he says. They run the risk of a nasty burn, and the combination of sun and ultraviolet exposure from the tanning salon can result in skin damage, and increase their risk of getting skin cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who tan indoors are more likely to report getting sunburned outside and warns “a base tan is not a safe tan.”

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