Health Watch -- An Unhealthy Winter Glow

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Some people turn to tanning beds as a way to avoid winter-pale skin or to keep their summer tan year-round. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that's not a good habit to get into. It's not only bad for your skin, it could put your life in danger.

Regular tanning under artificial "sun" lamps can raise your risk for melanoma, one of the deadliest kinds of skin cancers. It also damages your skin and leads to premature aging.

Dr. Stan Taylor, a UT Southwestern dermatologist, says that doctors consider all sources of ultraviolet radiation, whether it's the sun or a lamp, equally dangerous. Ultraviolet light is the kind of light that causes your skin to become tan. In other words, if light makes your skin darker, that light's bad for you.

Even limited exposure to ultraviolet light causes damage to DNA in skin cells, and that damage can be the start of cancer. Ultraviolet light also damages the collagen that supports the skin, leading to sagging and wrinkles.

If you don't like looking pale in winter, get your glow from self-tanning products. There are a variety of sunless tanning sprays, creams and lotions on the market for all skin tones and types. You can also try bronzing powders or creams to give your face some sun-kissed color without damaging your skin.