With summer right around the corner, many of us want to get a tan so we look good in our summer dresses and shorts. The sad thing is many of us know how unhealthy tanning is, but we ignore the warnings because we like how a tan looks.
Have you ever seen a poster in a tanning salon that showed a pale, perky 16-year-old girl on one side and a weathered wrinkled 65-year-old woman on the other? Of course not, but that’s exactly how you’ll age if you tan. And let’s not forget another situation – scars from the removal of skin cancer. Before you’re seduced by the golden glow, think about what other problems tanning may cause.
Every day, approximately 1 million Americans go to tanning salons nationwide without realizing that a short 20 minutes spent in their favorite tanning bed has a similar effect on the skin as spending an entire day at the beach. More and more evidence is linking melanoma and other skin cancers to tanning. Some countries even have started banning tanning salons.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, young adults are ignoring the cancer threat. The number of young people reporting a sunburn in the past year is increasing. It’s estimated that there’s a 50 percent increased rate of skin cancer in youth because of tanning beds and unsafe sunbathing practices. Skin cancer isn’t something that only our grandparents develop. It can affect anyone at any age.
I speak from personal experience
As a medical provider, I know how dangerous tanning can be, yet it wasn’t until I had a skin cancer scare myself that I decided to stop going to tanning beds. I recently went out to dinner with friends from graduate school. We had all tanned during high school and college. The conversation turned to tanning, and we learned that each of us had a skin cancer scare. Because of that, we had all stopped using tanning beds. We also all noticed more freckles and moles than before we started tanning. Even though we’ve stopped tanning, we talked about how we still feel prettier with a tan. I also have a good friend who was diagnosed with melanoma last year. While I know better, I still find myself not using sunscreen as I should and wishing I were tan.
I see many teenage girls in my clinic who are using tanning beds to “lay the base for the summer,” or have a nice tan for prom. Many of these young girls tan in order to feel better about themselves. While you may not see the damage right away, it’s real. You don’t want to be diagnosed with skin cancer in your 20s because you wanted to fit in and look good in your teens. Embrace and accept the skin you were born with. Love yourself as you are. If you feel you need to look tan, try using a self-tanning lotion or spray. Please don’t use a tanning bed.
Parents, are you talking to your children about the dangers of tanning. Is it working? Post a comment and share!
Katie is an advanced practice nurse in the Adolescent Health and Medicine Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The program provides care for the diverse health needs of adolescents, teens and young adults from age 10 to 21.