According to the American Academy of Dermatology, rates of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) have doubled since 1982, and skin cancer is now the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. (source)
The reason for this increase is that people are more interested in tanning at the beach, in the tanning bed, or in their back yards. When the skin is exposed to UV rays, it produces more melanocytes, the compounds that give skin its pigment. A malfunction in the skin during the production of melanocytes can cause melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
NOT TANNING BEDS! The Department of Health and Human Services includes tanning beds on its list of known carcinogens — right up there with asbestos and tobacco. Indoor tanning is estimated to cause more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States annually.
The safest way to sun tan is to use sunscreen to help protect your skin against too much damage from UV rays. Use at least an SPF 30 level sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours while enjoying your fun in the sun. Also, skin tanning products and lotions are generally safe and don’t cause irritation. When it comes to “fake tans” or spray tans the results are good. These products have come a long way and don’t usually come with streaks or orange colored messes that it did in the 80’s. To get a tan that looks the best it is recommended that you don’t go too dark, get a color close to your natural skin tone. Remember to ask a dermatologist about your skin care before getting a tan.
It is important to remember that getting a natural sun tan is healthy for you if done correctly. The sun stimulates the production of vitamin D which the body needs to function properly. The dangers of a natural sun tan come from the dangerous UV rays that harm the skin and cause burns. The purpose of the sunscreen is to protect the skin against these rays while still allowing enough in to cause a healthy sun tan.