Tanning: A Fatal Attraction

By Rebeka Lampe

As summertime sets in, many of us are excited for our long-awaited outdoor plans. Long days on the lake, barbeques, tank tops, hot weather, and dark tans. However, as we prepare for sunny days, our skin is as vulnerable as ever. The effects of tanning, whether in a bed or in the sun, are dangerous and life threatening.

This warning may not be unfamiliar, but many are still refusing to keep their skin protected. Tanning companies work hard to deliver opposing advertising messages, but according to Scientists from the World Health Organization, UV rays from tanning beds can cause cancer. And while many forms of skin cancer, if caught early, are treatable, the reality is that most of the time they’re not.

The Excuses vs. The Facts

According to the Melanoma Foundation, Melanoma kills one person every 50 minutes, making it the most deadly form of skin cancer. It is also the most common cancer for young adults aged 15-29, with increasing rates.

As the popularity of tanning rises in our society, misinformation has started to point people in the wrong direction. Below are some common misconceptions about tanning.

Going tanning every so often is harmless.

While tanning in the sun or in a booth once or twice may not seem like a big deal, researchers from the Melanoma Foundation found that people who use tanning beds once a month before the age of 35 increase their melanoma risk by 75 percent.

Tanning also produces harmful immediate and long-term effects. Marta Tabaka, a physician assistant in dermatology, explains what happens when your skin is exposed to the sun. “Initial exposure to UV radiation will produce a darkening of the skin. This is due to the increase in melanin in the cells, which effectively act as an umbrella for the cell’s DNA, trying to prevent further damage. However, damage from UV radiation can make you more prone to skin cancers as well as change the way your immune system works,” said Tabaka.

Tanning supplements my daily vitamin D intake

While there is a great deal of evidence proving that sunlight produces vitamin D, it is not a sufficient amount. David E. Fisher MD, PHD, chairman of dermatology and director of the Melanoma Program and Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School, said that there is no need to get your vitamin D from UV radiation when you can get it from a pill. Additionally, Tabaka recommends getting vitamin D through your diet with foods rich in vitamin D such as fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), fortified milk, yogurt or eggs.

My skin only tans so I don’t need to wear sunscreen

It doesn’t take a sunburn – tan skin is damaged skin. According to the the Melanoma Foundation, even though you may not develop a sunburn, excessive UV rays can cause “photo aging”’ or wrinkles and leathery skin. As women, we work so hard to keep ourselves looking young, fresh, and beautiful. Tanning will only continue to reverse what we fight so hard to maintain.

Wearing sunscreen is extremely important in maintaining your skin’s health. Sunscreen should be worn daily, even on cloudy days or days that you are inside. Tabaka said that UV radiation can travel through windows or on cloudy days. This can actually increase your radiation exposure, as the rays bounce back and forth. Using moisturizers with sunscreen is an easy way to stay protected.

Know What You’re Looking For

Skin cancer can often go undetected if you’re aware and knowledgeable of the signs. Checking your skin by the ABCDE method (provided below) is an easy and great way to know what is and isn’t normal on your skin. This may be familiar and repetitive from your junior high health class, but it is information that can save your life.

*A: Asymmetry: one half of the mole does not match with the other half. Normal moles are typically symmetrical.
*B: Border: The border of the mole is blurred, ragged or irregular.
*C: Color: Different colors seen throughout the mole should be checked immediately.
*D: Diameter: A mole should never have a diameter larger than a pencil eraser.
*E: Evolving: The mole is shrinking, growing larger, changing color or is beginning to itch or bleed.

*Provided by WebMD

While checking your whole body is key, WebMD notes to check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. A common location for melanoma in women is on the lower leg.

Sexy Skin Is In

Summer is a time to be and outside and active, but the key is to be smart, stay protected and know that there are alternative and safer ways to get that bronzed glow. Tabaka recommends applying SPF 30 sunscreen every 2-4 hours, depending on your activity. Also, try opting for sunless tanners such as creams, lotions, or sprays. There are a variety of products that leave a streak-free and bronzed rather than orange look, without a pungent smell.

Regardless of what our culture tells us, healthy skin is sexy skin. It doesn’t matter whether you’re light, dark, or freckled.

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Categories: Your Health News, Your Lifestyle

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