Karen Carlson of Cortland doesn't like tan lines from socks or shorts.
So to avoid this, she tans between the months of March and July.
"It feels warm and relaxing," she said with a laugh, adding that she's only fallen asleep a few times.
Carlson said she has only been tanning indoors for the past four years.
"I just don't have the time to go lay out in the yard," she said.
While Carlson said she's concerned about the skin aging associated with tanning, she said that skin care products can counteract possible damage. Additionally, she said the bronzers within the tanning products she uses accelerates her tan, reducing the amount of time she has to spend under the bulbs.
- Some clothes give more protection than others. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts are the best. Dark colors are better than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is most often better than wet fabric.
- A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is best because it protects areas often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. A shade cap (which looks like a baseball cap with about 7 inches of fabric draping down the sides and back) also is good. A baseball cap can protect the front and top of the head, but not the neck or the ears. Straw hats are not as good unless they are tightly woven.
- Use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. Be sure to use enough (a palmful), and put it on again every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days. For it to work best, sunscreen should be put on about 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside.
SOURCE: American Cancer Society
Carlson tans once or twice a week. Tanning every day, she said, is unnecessary. She agrees that tanning could be unhealthy "if it's excessive."
People like Carlson are aware of the dangers associated with tanning, yet health professionals are attempting to make additional changes to regulations.
The FDA is holding a hearing at the end of March to discuss the hazards of tanning parlor ultraviolet radiation. Additionally, this is the fourth year health professionals are trying to pass state legislation that would require minors to have a prescription from a doctor to be able to tan.
Louis Barich, a dermatologist in Hamilton, said the first attempted legislation regarding minors and tanning was proposed in 2006. About 30 states are working on tanning bed legislation, Barich said, and the proposed laws mainly involve minors. The FDA also has been working with medical professionals to improve the warning labels on tanning beds.
While Barich said the legislation may require more years before it's successful, he said the FDA hearing in March will increase chances.
Though both tanning indoors and outdoors are considered harmful, people receive higher doses of radiation from tanning beds than from tanning outside because of the close proximity to the bulbs, said Alfred Stabilito, Northeast Ohio public relations director for the American Cancer Society.
While one burn won't cause significant damage, long-term exposure will, Stabilito said. Most skin cancers develop at a later age, and damage can vary depending on skin pigmentation and the amount of sun exposure.
"Tanning beds are no safe alternative," Stabilito said.
In addition to dangers posed by close proximity to tanning bulbs, indoor tanning poses a threat for other reasons.
UVA light penetrates more deeply in the skin, said Robert Brodell, who has a dermatology office on East Market Street in Warren. For this reason, he said, some doctors believe skin melanoma is triggered mainly by UVA light.
While UVA and UVB light are present in outdoor sunlight, tanning beds just have UVA light, which doesn't cause burns, said Brodell, who is also a professor of internal medicine in the dermatology section at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and Pharmacy.
"Natural sun outside can be worse if you're going to get sun-burned," he said.
Still, Brodell said that sunburn is not the only problem caused by UV light. Sun damage also causes wrinkling or yellowing of the skin, brown spots, pre-cancers and cancers. Brodell also said he sees skin cancers in younger and younger people.
While some people may occasionally tan for a social event or just to get some color for the warmer months, Brodell compares habitual tanning to habitual smoking.
Though tanning is a source of Vitamin D, drinking milk or taking a supplement are other options, Brodell said.
"You don't have to damage your skin," he said. Similarly, Brodell said beauty is a common motivator for those who tan, and suggested alternatives such as spray booths or self-tanners. Still, he allowed that tanning indoors to achieve a base-line tan that would protect against burns when vacationing in a warmer location makes "a little bit of sense."
Gary Carlson, owner of K&G Tanning/Fitness in Warren, said that on average, his customers tan about three times per week in preparation for summer. February to July is a busy time, he said.
Carlson said there's no concrete evidence that indoor tanning causes skin cancer.
"It's a scare campaign by a lot of people," Carlson said.
While Carlson is aware of the legislation that would make it far more difficult for minors to tan, it doesn't seem that it would affect his business much. Carlson said he primarily gets junior and senior high school students for homecoming or prom, and they comprise a very low percentage of his business. Still, he said tanning salons that are nearer to schools might have a larger high school client base.
If the proposed legislation would pass, it would definitely affect business owners, said John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association. While minors don't make up a large percentage of most tanning salons' business, the amount varies.
Some salons may already be hurting from economic woes.
Overstreet mentioned that the tanning industry was hit harder than most industries by the recession, when individuals reevaluated their spending habits.
"Indoor tanning is one of the things that gets cut out," he said.
Ohio is one of the more heavily-regulated states, Overstreet said, adding that there are two levels of supervision for minors: parental consent and staff training.
Overstreet also mentioned that warnings are present both on the tanning device and on the consent form, which is required by the state.
Though the amount of sun outdoors can depend upon latitude, cloud cover, or the time of year or day, indoor tanning always offers the same amount of exposure, Overstreet said.
While there is much that health professionals and members of the tanning industry disagree on, Overstreet said they agree on at least one point.
"Sunburn needs to be avoided," he said.