On any given day just over a million people go to a tanning salon to either use a tanning bed or booth. A majority of these people are young women and teens who make tanning part of their weekly regimen. With over a million visitors per day, the tanning industry is worth around $5 billion, and what’s scarier than that number is the fact that its growing every year, along with the number of reported cases of skin cancer in young men and women.
Researchers have looked into the numerous reasons of why young adults and teens tan numerous times a week. While the obvious goal is to get a glowing bronze skin tone, scientists say that something as simple as a tan can raise esteem, offer a feeling of acceptance among groups of friends, and help ordinary people achieve the look of tanned celebrities.
While it all seems fine and dandy, institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic, say that what’s happening to your skin is something you can’t see or feel. Every time you tan, whether it’s in a tanning bed or on the beach, UV radiation in the form of UV-A and UV-B rays are penetrating your skin cells. As a response to these rays, your melanocytes (cells than produce melanin) increase melanin production, causing your skin to become darker. But while your skin gets darker, your DNA is also being mutated. UV rays can distort DNA and even break apart the double helix, damaging it beyond repair. This is exactly what can cause skin cancer in the form of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma.
Most tanning salons market their beds and booths as a much safer alternative to lying outside in the sun, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has publically stated there is no such thing as a safe tan. There are also some very important statistics behind tanning bed and booth exposure. First off, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. The number of skin cancer cases exceeds the number of colon, lung, breast, and prostate cancer combined. In addition, one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer some point in their life. While Caucasian men over 50 are the most likely to develop all forms of skin cancer, there has been a sharp increase in skin cancer cases among young women and even teens. If you use a tanning bed even once a month, you are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma in your lifetime.
Although it may seem like a gloom outlook, especially if you are a tanning bed or booth user, the truth is that skin cancer risks increase every time you go to a tanning salon. While you may be dying to get that Hollywood glow to your skin, especially during the winter months, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers. First off, quit the tanning beds and booths. This cannot be expressed enough. Tanning will cause your skin to look bronzed, but just think that below that glow is disfigured cells and mutated DNA (not a very pretty thought, huh?). As a much safer alternative, try the always-reliable spray-on tan. Many people avoid spray-on tanning because they think it turns your skin orange. This just isn’t true. You can get glowing, healthy skin with a spray-on tan very easily, all while ditching the oompa loompa look.
Avoiding tanning beds and booths is a great idea, but you should also be cautious about being out in the sun anytime of the year. Always wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Avoid the sun if you can during peak hours of 10AM to 4PM when the sun is the harshest and most direct. Make sure you and your family is protected because children can sometimes get worse burns on their delicate skin.
If you suspect you may have skin cancer, it’s crucial to see a doctor immediately. Almost 100 percent of all skin cancer cases (even melanoma) are curable if caught in the earliest stage of development. If skin cancers metastasize there is an increased risk of it being fatal. If you do tan, you need to be aware of your body. Check your skin several times a month for new marks, freckles, and moles. Check everywhere too, even between your toes and have a friend check your scalp if you have longer hair. If you currently have moles, freckles, birthmarks, scars, or any other mark, make sure you keep track of them. Changes in shape, color, texture, or size could indicate a problem.
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