I love having a beautiful golden tan just as much as the next girl but is it worth the risk? I did a fair amount of research on this topic and I want to warn everyone out there that baking in the tanning bed or ever laying out in the sun and getting burned is much more dangerous than you think. Take this story for example.
A young girl in high school with a beautiful glowing tan stands in front of the mirror. She goes tanning to the salon once or twice a week to keep up with the other girls, even though she is naturally fair-skinned. Her grandmother tells her she’s concerned with her tanning after watching a talk show about the dangers of tanning, she laughs it off and keeps going off and on and also enjoys being outside with no sunscreen. Now in college that same girl stands in front of a different mirror and notices a mole that has changed black. She discredits it and puts of going to the dermatologist for a few months. She decides to finally make an appointment, and the doctor tells her it could be nothing to worry about, but he removes the mole to get it tested. A week later the lab results come back, and the doctor informs her that she has melanoma. Her mouth goes dry and a small panic sets in. He tells her it is cancer and that she will have to come back to check to see if it has spread. If it has spread far, she will have to get radiation, she could die.
This is actually my story but in reality my lab results came back as “atypical”, which the doctors told me meant it pre-cancerous. At some point it may or may not have turned to cancer. Yet, there are many girls who are not so lucky. “Glenna Kohl pursued a tan, both in the sun and in tanning beds — which new research shows are far deadlier than once thought,” says magazine writer Stephanie Booth. By 22, she was battling the most lethal form of skin cancer and at age 26, she was dead. So young to die, and yet it was a completely preventable disease. It was concluded that the disease was the result of her long exposure to the sun as a lifeguard and through the use of indoor-tanning beds. (Booth, 2009) Sunscreen and the warning of the dangers of tanning beds could have saved her life.
The rate at which young women are getting skin cancer is at an all-time high. The American Cancer Society says nearly 70,000 U.S. melanoma cases were diagnosed in 2009. All require surgery, and some are fatal. (The Charleston Gazette) The International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that the ultraviolet lights of tanning beds are carcinogenic to humans. The new research places tanning beds in the same category as mustard gas, arsenic and asbestos! (Sobel, 2009)
It is hard to imagine that tanning is in the same category as mustard gas but the effects of tanning beds are much slower and so most people do not realize the damage it is causing their bodies. The percentage at which indoor tanning increases melanoma is alarming, “Indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases one’s risk for melanoma by 75%,” says Mary Kate Baker, a student and at East Tennessee State University who wrote her dissertation on this subject. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports, “Over the past 40 years, rates of this potentially deadly skin cancer (melanoma) grew by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men.”
If you have a sister, daughter, friend, mother anyone you know especially who is still a teen please share this with them. It is crucial that everyone be taught the dangers of tanning and especially adolescence.
“Restricting teens’ access to indoor tanning is critical to preventing skin cancer,” says board-certified dermatologist Brett M. Coldiron, MD, FAAD, president of the AADA. “Therefore, we will continue to communicate to the FDA the need for stricter regulations on the use and sale of indoor tanning devices for minors under the age of 18.”
Every time a person gets into a tanning bed the risk for skin cancer increases, although every person is different on how fast, and when or if they will get melanoma. Tanning is especially popular among young women where the pressures to be tan and beautiful are growing. “Our survey underscores the importance of educating young women about the very real risks of tanning, as melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is increasing faster in females 15 to 29 years old than in males of the same age group,” said dermatologist Ronald L. Moy, MD, FAAD, president of the Academy. “In fact, most young women with melanoma are developing it on their torso, which may be the result of high-risk tanning behaviors such as indoor tanning. In my practice, I have had patients – young women with a history using tanning beds – who have died from melanoma.”
The tanning industry would like the public and their consumers to believe that their tanning beds are safe. Some even say that it is not “proven” that tanning beds cause skin cancer. The Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) encourages those who will be exposed to the sun, such as beach goers, to tan responsibly. They say, “While moderate exposure to UV light is necessary for good health, overexposure to UV light can be a dangerous byproduct of too much time in the sun. In order for tanners to get all the benefits UV light, such as Vitamin D, without the negative effects of overexposure, such as sunburn. They recommend getting a base tan.”
I fooled myself into thinking i needed a base tan too but it’s just not worth it. A person gets a base tan by going to indoor tanning salons before spending lots of time in the sun, say a vacation because it increases your exposure to ultraviolet light without burning. The ITA also claims that indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning. “A good way to minimize the risk of contracting sunburn is to tan indoors where the beds are regulated by the FDA, professional staff can monitor how a particular skin-type responds to UV light, and your body can benefit from an even tan without overexposing any one part” (PR Newswire).
However, Joanne Di Nardo, a Senior Manager, with Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario division argues against that. “Getting a tan from a tanning does not protect you from the sun and in fact could be more harmful.” Evidence shows that tanning beds can expose a user to five times more ultraviolet radiation than the mid-day summer sun. In reality, a base tan from natural or artificial sources offers the equivalent to an SPF level of only 2 or 3, when the FDA recommends at least SPF 15 at a minimum. (Canada Newswire, 2013.)
Researchers also say that the link between ultraviolet exposure from the sun or tanning beds and melanoma is indisputable “There is no question that ultraviolet exposure is associated with an increased risk of melanoma,” says Fisher, who is also the president of the Society for Melanoma Research. (Doheny, 2008)
To be continued….