Tanning -- Friend or Foe?

February 13, 2004 -- Posted at 4: 15 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- Is the sun -- or for some of us, the tanning bed-- your friend or foe? Some doctors believe that there's too much tanning going on indoors and out. Spring break is almost here and as students make the pilgrimage south, many are trying to avoid spending their vacation burnt.

Dr. David Weingold works as a Dermatologist and says the dangers of tanning in a tanning bed are very similar to the dangers of tanning outside.

"It's going to cause premature aging, pigment changes and skin cancers," said Weingold.

Students on the campus of Arkansas State University say generally they are not worried about the dangers associated with tanning.

Brooke Shelby is a student who says she isn't worried.

"I don't like being really pasty, I'm sure everybody's like that, and it kind of helps with your complexion and skin," said Shelby.

Student Molly Kendrick said, "My grandmother pitches a fit, she's like you're going to get skin cancer and I'm like, no I'm not."

But statistically, she could. Dr. Weingold says the chances of getting skin cancer are better then you think.

"Typically, you're going to see about one million new skin cancer patients a year in America. So it certainly does happen a lot and it's very prevalent. We see people with skin cancer everyday. roughly, one in five American will develop skin cancer at some point," said Weingold.

But those statistics don't seem to worry young adults. A study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University suggests that teenagers don't see tanning as risky.

: "By the time girls were 18 or 19 years old about 47% reported that they had used an indoor tanning facility three or more times," said researcher Catherine Demko.

And it's not just the girls either...

Michael Sowell has been tanning for spring break.

"I'm just tanning mainly to get the look and hopefully if I'm a little dark I won't get as burnt as I'm probably going to be," said Sowell.

but he may be on the right track...

"Tans are protective, their a way of reacting to insults, and if you get a tan you'll get less burnt when you go out into natural sun. That isn't to say there aren't dangers of it and it will still cause problems, it's still going to create skin cancer and photo damage but it is going to give you some protection from the natural sun," said Weingold.

Getting a base tan can help, but slathering on the sunscreen is your best bet to beat a nasty burn. Dermatologist say when using sunscreen, it's important to remember to reapply after going into the water. Jason Gambill is headed to the beach for Spring Break.

"I plan to wear some sunscreen. I'm not exactly the tannest guy out there so sunscreen has been my friend every time I go to the beach," laughed Gambill.

By using a SPF of at least 15, you can save yourself a burn and not miss a beat.