The Dangers of Sun Tanning
What used to be considered a harmless and relaxing activity to do in the sun, is now considered a dangerous and deadly, cancer causing thing to do. What I speak of is Sun Tanning. Not only is sun tanning dangerous, now, even being out in the sun is potentially dangerous if your not wearing sun block. The sun isn't the only way to get a tan however, another trend that can result in cancer is tanning salons. Our life management group learned many new facts that can save your skin and possibly your life, by protecting yourself from the deadly UV rays of the sun.
The American Cancer Society predicts that this year in the U.S. more than 600,000 new cases of skin malignancies will be diagnosed, most of them caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Some 2,500 victims of these cancers will die this year, and most of the others will have to undergo surgery. Doctors are struck by the rise in melanoma cases. They say years ago it was rare to see one case of melanoma in a year, now it is normal to see 6 cases in six weeks.
It seems the depletion of the ozone layer, which blocks much of the sun's ultraviolet radiation, is contributing to the rise in skin cancer. While there is little evidence to support this thought, scientists agree that in the long run the depleted ozone layer could cause trouble. Why does the ozone layer deplete? Because of the use of non ozone friendly products, and because of pollution from factories and cars. We are not being protected from the sun as well because of the ozone layers depletion.
The skin's outer layer, or epidermis, serves as the staging ground for all three of the major skin cancers. The cancer attacks the cells in your skin and forms tumors and other deformities. You can also get skin cancer from radiation, burns, infectious disease, or frequent contact with certain chemicals, but the most common cause of skin cancer is by the sun.
The most fearsome form of skin cancer is called malignant melanoma, which sometimes emerges from a mole. You can tell a Melanoma has infected a mole if your mole changes color to light brown, black or red. They grow rapidly and can expand to the thickness of a dime. Eventually the become very poisonous to your body, and can be fatal.
The most vulnerable people to skin cancer are light skinned, light eyed people of the north European race. Particularly people with red or blond hair that tan easily. It all depends on how much pigmentation you have, which is the substance that colors your skin and eyes. Black people are almost immune to skin cancer, while light skinned white people are very much at risk. However, geography also plays a role in skin cancer. Places around the Earth's equator are where the most radiation enters the earth, and where the most people get skin cancer.
Awareness of skin cancer is rising in the U.S. and Canada, through the efforts of the Cancer Society, which distribute posters, pamphlets, and so on. They say that applying a sun screen with an SPF of 15 wards off a sun burn 15 times longer than what no protection would do. Skin cancer can be treated after you have it, by removing the tumor, but the best advice is to stay out of the sun as much as possible, and wear sun block.
Here are some terms that have to do with skin cancer:
Ultraviolet A : The long-wave length constituent of sunlight causes aging of the skin, tanning, and sometimes sun burn. It penetrates deeply and may contribute to skin cancer.
Ultraviolet B : Abundant in sunlight, this shorter-wave radiation causes sunburn, premature aging and wrinkling. It is largely responsible for malignant melanoma.
Melanoma : This deadliest of skin cancer, develops slowly from a mole or blemish.
Basal-Cell Carcinoma : The most common skin malignancy is usually caused by excessive sun exposure. It develops slowly, and is almost 100% curable if treated early.
Our group has assembled a list of common questions and answers about the dangers of skin cancer, and about sun tanning.
Why do some doctors say tanning salons are dangerous ?
The newest evidence shows that moderate sun tanning actually helps prevent breast and colon cancer as well as many skin cancers. The most obvious reason some doctors say tanning salons are dangerous is that some doctors truly think tanning salons are dangerous. They are informed by old, and badly done studies that rely on anecdotal evidence rather than scientific methods. Other studies were done on hairless, nocturnal creatures that have never developed the ability to regulate the biological action of UV by producing a suntan. The results of these studies were then presented as predictive models for the human skin. This is not good science.
Another reason may be that doctors were once able to charge $ 60.00 per visit for UV LIGHT TREATMENTS. The availability of UV at Sun tanning Salons for "Self-Treatment" at an average cost of $ 3.00 to $ 6.00 per session has reduced medical revenue, most severely at the average dermatology office. Interesting that the dermatologist is our loudest critic!
Many doctors say that a suntan is an "injury" to the skin. The medical definition of an "injury" is "a change in health or condition". This definition is misleading to non medical people.
How many times will I have to visit a sun tanning salon to get a suntan ?
Depending on the type of sunbeds or booths, it will take from 1 to 8 sessions for you to begin showing good color. Traditional sunbeds of the most common design will require about 8 sessions spread over about 2 weeks to produce good color. Newer quartz lamp "high pressure" designs use different kinds of tanning rays and much higher intensities to produce color in only 1 or 2 sessions for most skin types. Many modern sunbeds fall in between these extremes and can produce a lot of color in 3 to 4 sessions. You will generally get what you pay for. Please remember that a fast tan is more cosmetic than functional. A tan needs to be maintained for a longer period of time in order for it to be functional in protecting from sunburn.
What about skin cancer ?
Some people get it. Who gets it is more a function of diet and genetics than adult sun tanning behavior. There is good evidence that childhood sunburns may increase the risk of developing skin cancer in later life.
Many doctors want us to think that recent growth in skin cancer rates are due to increased use of sun tanning salons. Dr. Fred Urbach - a world class photobiologist - points out, however, that cancer rates per thousand of population have been increasing at the same very steady if exponential rate for the last 50 years. This seems to indicate that the suntanning salon has very little to do with skin cancer rates. If suntanning salons were as bad as some doctors would have you believe, you would hear about the dangers more often..
Do I really have to wear those goggles ? (Sun Tanning Goggles)
Yes. Your cornea, lens, and retina may all be damaged by UV rays from suntanning beds and booths if proper eye protection is not worn. Watch for more on this in the next few weeks. If you tan without eye protection, and nothing "bad" happens right away, then you may think you are not hurting yourself. Many people do not experience injuries from UVA rays. They don't know that they are hurting themselves a little bit at a time. These chronic injuries accumulate over your lifetime. UVA rays will slowly cause you to lose your night vision and color vision. These losses are usually noticed before a change in visual acuity. Your eyes are worth more than $ 4.00. Wear the goggles.
Can I catch a disease from a suntanning booth or bed ?
Not if the salon follows good hygiene practices. Ask what they use on the bed or booth between customers. Ask them to show you the bottle. The label should say "DISINFECTANT" or at least "SANITIZER". The best disinfectant products are also "FUNGICIDES" and "VIRUCIDES" to control ringworm, foot fungus, and viral diseases. Some salons post information about their hygiene practices where you can inspect it. Others may have to be asked. If your salon will not show you what they use, then we suggest you find a new salon.
Why are some parts of the body harder to tan than the others ?
Do some parts of the body have more melanin (dark skin pigment) than others ?
Generally speaking, at birth, Melanocytes (cells that produce melanin pigment) are relatively evenly distributed throughout the skin surface. Repeated, intense exposure to UV may cause the Melanocytes to increase their baseline activity and even to divide and multiply. Over a period of time, the accumulated number of intense sun exposures on different parts of the body may leave some areas of skin lighter or darker than other areas. Arms are usually darker than legs because arms are UV exposed more routinely and often during our life. Areas with more routine exposure are also more able to respond quickly to suntanning opportunity (and resist burning). The trunk, hands, and feet are less tan for most people than the arms.
Other factors also contribute to making some parts of the body harder to tan than others. Faces are harder to tan than other body parts because of increased rates of exfoliation (shedding pigmented dead skin cells and replacing them with new, less pigmented cells). This is caused by washing the face often. Women also add the rigors of makeup removal. Men shave their faces and wash them rigorously, so their faces are often less tan their arms. Women's legs are often less tan than arms due to shaving as well.
One final cause of uneven pigmentation is that fluorescent tanning lamps have more UV output near the center of the lamp than at the ends.
HOWEVER, keep in mind that color variations are all very natural. It's only when we start "paying" for our tan that we get so serious about it being "even" and "perfect". Foreheads, cheeks, forearms, and shoulders are usually darker than nearby skin that is not as often or as directly exposed. The best thing to do is enjoy the natural color and variation that you get from moderate UV exposure. Let time take it's course and any pigmentation differences will become less noticeable.
After putting together this presentation and essay, the members of our group have become much more knowledgeable about the dangers of sun tanning. Putting on sun screen and avoiding direct sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin cancer. No form of tanning is safe.