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UV Tanning Equipment

Sun lamps and tanning equipment emit ultraviolet (UV) rays.

  • People who are exposed to UV rays over a long period of time are more likely to develop skin cancer.
  • People with light skin are in more danger because their skin is more sensitive to UV rays.

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About UV Tanning Equipment

Tanning bed.

Tanning beds emit UV rays.

Tanning is your skin's self-defense against burns from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Skin cells react by producing more pigment (color) as a shield. Too much exposure to these rays can cause wrinkling of the skin at an early age, skin rashes and eye injury. Tanning can also increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

UV wavelengths are divided into three types or bands:


  • The atmosphere has little effect on these rays - most UVA radiation reaches Earth's surface.
  • UVA rays cause sunburn, skin aging, eye damage and can lower your body's ability to fight off illness.


  • The atmosphere has a very strong effect on UVB rays - where there is less ozone, more UVB radiation can reach Earth's surface.
  • UVB rays cause sunburns, skin cancer, skin aging, snow blindness and can lower your body's ability to fight illness.


  • The atmosphere has a very strong effect on UVC rays - almost all UVC rays are absorbed by ozone, water vapor, oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  • Few UVC rays reach Earth's surface and harmful effects from UVC rays are minimal.

Most sun lamps and tanning equipment emit UVA rays. UVA rays are sometimes known as “tanning rays,” and are less likely to cause sunburn than UVB rays. However, that does not make UVA radiation safe. UVA rays may be linked to melanoma (the most deadly kind of skin cancer) and like UVB rays, they can damage your body’s ability to fight illness.

Did You Know?

UV radiation can cause temporary and permanent eye damage.

People who are exposed to UV rays over a long period are more likely to develop skin cancer. The National Cancer Institute reported that women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma.

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Rules and Guidance

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

FDA writes rules about the information tanning device labels must contain. These labels go on tanning equipment and the protective eyewear used with them. Labels must describe the right way to use the tanning equipment and the potential dangers of its use. FDA does not have authority to inspect the use, or safety of tanning equipment; individual states have this authority.

U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

FTC investigates false, misleading and deceptive advertisements about tanning devices. If they find that the advertisements are not truthful, they can take corrective action.

The States

Rules and regulations for tanning salons are written by the states. However, not all states have tanning salon rules in place. States can also issue licenses to operate tanning devices and inspect the salons. States may train tanning salon owners and employees. Find your state radiation program contact exit EPA.

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What you can do

Avoid tanning lamps, beds and booths. If you do use tanning equipment, always use protective eyewear that provides 100% UV ray protection.

Regardless of your UV exposure from tanning beds, conduct a monthly self skin exam to look for any abnormalities. Look for bumps or sores that don't heal or for moles that have changed size, color or shape. Have a friend or family member check your back and your scalp and visit your physician or a dermatologist to get skin checks annually. When caught early, most cases of skin cancer can be cured.

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Where to learn more

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
This webpage provides information and health risks regarding skin tanning and UV exposure.
Indoor Tanning
U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information
This webpage explores myths and realities surrounding tanning, UV exposure and health risks.
Is Indoor Tanning Safe?
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This webpage discusses the facts and myths around indoor tanning.

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