The desire for a bronze glow has existed for decades, and while the days of tanning with baby oil and a piece of aluminum may be long gone, unsafe tanning practices still exist. Indoor tanning beds are still popular, even though they can cause skin damage and increase your risk of skin cancer.

People who use indoor tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, than those who have never tanned indoors.

“You should avoid the UV rays from indoor tanning beds to reduce your risk of skin cancer and try self-tanning lotion instead,” said Paula Sauer, Senior Vice President, Pharmacy and Care Management.

You’ve likely heard the sun causes skin cancer. But, the sun can also damage other parts of your body, so consider these facts before you step outside unprotected:

  • 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • Eye damage and a weakened immune system are also linked to the sun’s UV radiation.
  • Up to 90 percent of the changes commonly attributed to aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin and brown spots are caused from the sun.

“Most skin cancer can be prevented if you protect yourself when you’re in the sun. In addition to decreasing your chances of skin cancer, you can prevent other damage to your skin with the right protection,” Paula said.

It’s best to avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when its rays are the strongest. To help you gauge your level of UV exposure, try using the shadow rule. A shadow longer than your height means low UV exposure, while a shadow shorter than your height means high UV exposure.

Sunscreen is a powerful weapon against the sun. Be sure to use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher and follow these guidelines for the best protection:

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from ultraviolet A and B rays.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Sunscreen effectiveness decreases with water, sweat, length of time outside, wind, humidity and altitude, so apply every two to three hours.
  • If you have sensitive skin, try using sunscreen free of alcohol, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), preservatives and perfumes.
  • For long periods of time outdoors or under high UV exposure, you can apply zinc oxide cream, which will stop sunlight from penetrating your skin.

“You can never be too careful. Covering yourself with loose-fitting clothing and large-brimmed hats will also reduce the sun’s damaging affects to your skin,” Paula said.

Visit SkinCancer.org for more information about protecting your skin from the sun.