"Cancer threat" in your spray-on tan: Toxins accidentally inhaled, warn scientists

'Cancer threat' in your spray-on tan: Toxins accidentally inhaled, warn scientists



22:47 GMT, 12 June 2012

Spray tans, used by many as a safer alternative to sunbeds, may create serious health problems including cancer, scientists warned last night.

Those seeking a bronzed skin tone without exposing themselves to harmful radiation could instead be at risk from the main ingredient in sprays, which is potentially harmful if inhaled.

The substance – known as dihydroxyacetone, or DHA – enters the lungs and is then absorbed into the bloodstream where it could damage DNA and cause tumours.

Spray tan safety: Their use cause damage to DNA which could lead to cancer and fatal lung diseases, a panel of experts have warned

Spray tan safety: Their use cause damage to DNA which could lead to cancer and fatal lung diseases, a panel of experts have warned

Scientists claim the chemical may make
asthma worse, as well as other lung problems such as emphysema and
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

One in ten British men and four in ten women say they use fake tan.


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Hundreds of salons have opened all
over Britain since spray tanning became popular in the Eighties,
creating an industry worth more than 100million.

But staff often fail
to provide customers with the necessary goggles and masks to prevent
potentially harmful chemicals from entering their eyes or lungs.

Although no tests have been carried
out on humans showing that spray tans are harmful or cancerous,
researchers in the US have expressed concerns over their safety after
looking at tests carried out on cells in the lab.


Does this health risk also include at-home tanning lotions

No, the concern medical experts have with DHA, the chemical in tanning products, only includes its absorption into living cells – the eyes, lips and lungs. At-home tanning lotions are able to be safely applied to outer skin cells only, avoiding the potential for DHA to enter the bloodstream.

Why are spray tanning booths allowed to operate if their use is not FDA approved

DHA, the color-additive that turns skin brown, was approved in the 1970's by the FDA for external skin use only, before spray-tanning booths were conceivable. While the chemical itself is already approved, its use in tanning booths as an all-over spray is not, since safety data surrounding this specific use has not been submitted to the FDA for review and evaluation.

If I have had only one spray tan, am I at risk

Medical experts believe the dose from an individual spray tan or two is low enough to not have a demonstrable impact on someone's health. However there are concerns for those who regularly spray tan, week after week.

What are steps I can take to lower my risk of using spray tans

The FDA recommends people wear protective undergarments, nose filters, lip balm and protective eye wear while spray tanning to reduce the risk of the mist entering the body

Dr Lynn Goldman, dean
of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington
University in Washington DC, said: ‘The substance seems to have a
potential for what they call creating mutations or changing DNA in
living cells, which is a serious problem and needs to be further
investigated, yet hasn’t been.

‘What we’re concerned about is not so
much that reaction that creates the tanning, but reactions that may
occur deeper down with living cells that might then change DNA, causing a
mutation and what the possible impacts of that might be.

‘I’d be very concerned for the potential of lung cancer.’

And Dr Rey Panettieri, a lung
specialist from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of
Medicine, said: ‘The lungs have a huge surface area, so this compound
gets into cells and gets absorbed into the bloodstream.

‘The consequences of that has not been shown to be safe.

‘For the casual user – the person who goes once a month – frankly there’s probably no problem at all.’

But he said there could be problems
for people who use salons frequently or staff who spray the tan on to
customers, adding: ‘It could potentially lead to cancer or the worsening
of asthma or COPD.’

Although spray tan has been approved for use in Britain and the US for rubbing into the skin, there were no inhalation tests.

The latest concerns were uncovered by
American television broadcaster ABC News.

It spoke to six experts,
including Dr Panettieri and Dr Goldman, who had looked at previously
unpublished research on the effect of DHA on cells.

These included studies which were carried out on mouse cells, bacteria and salmonella.