Tan skin is often seen as a sign of beauty or health, but it can actually be harmful to one's skin and well-being. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has labeled solar radiation a "known human carcinogen" because it can lead to cancer [California Department of Public Health]. Similarly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has called tanning beds "probably carcinogenic to humans" [source: BBC News].
Tanning beds and sun lamps emit UV rays, making them quite dangerous. They can, in fact, be even more harmful than natural sunlight. People who are regular tanning-bed users before age 30 have a 75 percent higher chance of developing melanoma [source: BBC News]. In the UK, for example, melanoma cases increased 400 percent between 1979 and 2009, and the country is considering banning tanning beds -- or sun beds, as they're known there -- for people under age 18 [source: BBC News].
Alternatives to tanning salons include sunless tanning solutions. They represent a safer, healthier option, but wearing them doesn't replace the need for people to regularly apply sunscreen.