The short answer is: No, it is not okay to tan. I have many patients that ask me this question, and I tell them all the same thing that I’m telling you. Exposure to UV light causes skin cancer, whether it is from the sun or from a tanning bed. Getting a “base tan” does not prevent you from getting skin cancer. In fact, people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 75% higher chance of getting melanoma. Another common argument I hear is that tanning helps your body make vitamin D. And while this is true, you can get plenty of vitamin D from a healthy diet and a multivitamin without increasing your risk of cancer. The damage done to your skin in your teens and twenties doesn’t appear until your 40s and 50s. So it can be very easy for people to rationalize tanning, when the negative effects are so far in the future. But in addition to causing cancer, sun exposure causes age spots and wrinkles. I have many patients who tanned heavily and are now spending hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to get rid of the wrinkles and discoloration caused by UV exposure. Keep your skin looking younger and lower your risk of skin cancer by wearing sunscreen every day. The simplest way to do this is to use a face or body lotion with SPF 15 or higher. And if you plan to be out in the sun, make sure to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, more frequently if you are swimming or sweating heavily.