“I can’t tell you how many patients I have who have used tanning beds as a treatment for psoriasis and ultimately wind up with melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers,” says Dr. Geraghty. “I used to see such patients regularly to help care for their psoriasis rash and I would encourage them to stop tanning. Now I see them every three months not for their psoriasis, but to freeze off pre-cancers, biopsy suspicious lesions, and surgically remove their melanomas and other skin cancers.” She adds that this can be upsetting for patients, who had the best intentions to treat a flare-up: “[They] were only trying to help improve their psoriasis, but instead wound up with an even more significant problem: permanent skin damage from repeated UV exposure and multiple scars, not to mention prematurely aged skin.”

Is there any instance in which a doctor would recommend a tanning bed as a psoriasis treatment? “Tanning beds may be invoked — emphasis on the word may — in very rare cases when someone could not regularly come to the derm office to get this treatment. It would follow a very deliberate decision and evaluation of the person’s skin history, such as risk of skin cancer,” explains Dr. Gohara. “Tanning bed use can increase this risk tremendously and should not be used casually in any circumstances.”

Dr. Geraghty calls tanning beds “a fast-track to skin cancer” and reiterates what we’ve long known: They’re harmful to the skin in a plethora of ways, including premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer.

That increased skin cancer risk is staggering. “Using tanning beds before age 20 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by 47%, and the risk increases with each use,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). The UV light that is emitted from tanning beds “contains an extremely harmful portion of UV light that is related to skin burning, skin premature aging, but most importantly, a real increased risk of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers,” says board-certified dermatologist Melanie Palm.

If you’re struggling with psoriasis, there is potential relief outside the tanning salon. “The wide variety of new topical treatments, biologic therapies [to help quiet overactive immune systems], and other treatment modalities, including lifestyle modification, are a much safer and effective means of controlling psoriasis,” says Dr. Palm.

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