Ask The Educator: Tanning

I am 16 and I’m curious about what my friend said about tanning….

My best friend and I go to the tanning salon every Friday except during the summer. Instead, we go to the beach every weekend and tan.  WE LOVE TANNING! But the other day when me and my other friend were changing into our gym clothes she said; “Babe, i love you and everything but you’re starting to look orange and if you’re not careful, you’re going to die of skin cancer!” That scared me. Is it true?

– Sunkissed Diva

I understand how that statement could have sent chills. “Cancer” is not a word we throw around lightly. So, to avoid adding insult to injury, I’m going to stick to the facts:

ALL skin types, regardless of color can be damaged by OVER-EXPOSURE to UV radiation. Skin damage can range from sun burn, sun spots, premature aging, all the way up to melanoma and other forms of skin cancers.

Our sun is always around, even when there are clouds, even when there is snow, even when it looks gray and rainy outside….the sun is always there and therefore, so are the UV rays. So is it really necessary to over-expose the body to that much UV radiation beyond the natural amount we receive by simply walking out our front door?

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If you’re not sure how to answer that…let’s look at what exactly happens to the skin when you are over-exposed to UV radiation.

CLICK HERE: YouTube Video showing UV skin damage

The skin is your body’s first line of defense from the elements of the outside world. When our skin is exposed to UV radiation, the body will respond:

  1. The upper, outer-most layer of skin will begin to warm and eventually burn as a response to the UV radiation. The redness is your body trying to heal itself by sending blood to the burned area.
  2. The UV radiation that penetrates into the deeper layers of skin, will cause cells to produce Melanin. Melanin is our body’s way of trying to absorb the radiation. This is how our skin tans. And its the body’s last attempt at protecting itself from further penetration of UV radiation.
  3. When the UV radiation penetrates the skin consistently and over a period of time (Over-Exposure) It will begin to effect the DNA held in your cells, resulting in health complications, including but not limited to various forms of skin cancer.

OKAY, NOW WHAT?!?!?!?

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Well, what is important to stress here is moderation and protection. The danger is in over-exposure to UV radiation. What you can do to protect yourself is:

  1. Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  2. When out in the sun, take shade break every 10-20 minutes.
  3. Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  4. Us a a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  5.  Wear clothes; UV protected sunglasses and broad brimmed hats.

 

After all, you can’t hide from the sun, nor should you! The sun offers health benefits as well:   2-10 minutes of sunlight helps the body to make Vitamin D and the visible light given off by the sun has been observed to improve the mood.

So, go outside and play, garden, go for walks, swim….enjoy the beautiful light of day!

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Just be safe

If you want to learn more, Check out these great sources:

http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/tanning.html
http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/indoor_tanning.htm
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm186687.htm
http://www.fda.gov/radiation-emittingproducts/radiationemittingproductsandprocedures/tanning/default.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2692214/
http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning
http://share.upmc.com/2014/07/infographic-abcs-uv-difference-uva-uvb-uvc/

 

 

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