Cumulative Radiation: Medical Scans vs. Too Much Tanning?

A woman recently made headlines for exposing her young daughter to the harmful UV rays of a tanning booth. Referred to in news stories as the “tanning mom,” the woman allegedly allowed her five-year-old into the tanning booth with her while she underwent her daily tanning session. The child went to school with badly sunburned skin and was heard bragging that she had gone “tanning” with her mother, leading to the mother’s arrest for child endangerment.

This story raises concerns about the different sources of radiation that we expose ourselves and our children to in our daily lives – without a second thought. Tanned skin is considered attractive in our culture, yet many people do not consider the fact that the artificial rays produced by a tanning booth are just as harmful as the UV rays of the sun. While this woman's "tanerexia" is disturbing, the real concern is that too much exposure to either form of radiation can lead to skin cancer.

Other sources of radiation, though in more limited doses, include the scanning machines used in airports, our cell phones and other handheld electronic devices. More radiation is emitted by powerful scanning machines used in the health care field. Some of these, like x-ray machines, CT Scans and PET Scans, use moderate to large doses of radiation with each scan. There are medical scans available that don’t use radiation, such as MRI and ultrasound. These alternative choices may provide your doctor with the information needed to diagnose or track your health concerns, so ask your doctor if these are an option.

The risk from radiation is cumulative, and we should only be exposed to a certain amount throughout the course of our lives. In other words, it all adds up, and that isn’t good. So, the next time you consider lying in a tanning bed to brown your skin for an upcoming occasion, or wearing the ear piece from your cell phone all day, you might want to think again.

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