The song “Surfin’ USA” was recently voted “Best Summer Song of All Time” in a contest sponsored by Yahoo! For many of us, this Beach Boys song instantly evokes nostalgic days of fun in the sun… soaking up the rays, playing in the sand, and appearing vigorous because of our tan. The song is great, but your summer fun may eventually turn into something not so glamorous, and not so fun with things such as deep wrinkles, blotched skin (that causes you to appear much older than you actually are), sagging skin and maybe skin cancer. And if you think tanning beds are a safe way to soak up rays …think again. I’m not trying to rain on your parade, I just want everyone to become informed and passionate about taking care of his or her skin. In my opinion, no matter the source of a tan, our society should not consider that tan a symbol of health.
Lately there have been more and more reports on the rise of skin cancer. For years, the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) was most likely to appear on the “heads of elderly outdoor enthusiasts,” and those who had worked outdoors for years. About two decades ago, dermatologists began to see more and more patients with BCC, a nonmelanoma form of skin cancer, in younger women and in teenagers. Yale researchers, Dr. David J. Lefell and Susan T. Mayne, C.E.A. Winslow Professor of Epidemiology, wanted to find out why there had been such an increase. The data revealed that between 1990 and 2004, patients under the age of forty with BCC had risen by 40 percent. And, this increase was found in females and not as prevalent in males.[i]
As researchers began to gather data, they learned that many of their patients were not just staying out in the sun, they were frequent users of indoor tanning.[ii] It was also discovered there was “a disproportionate number of BCC lesions that occurred on the torso and limbs, sites of the body that receive heavy ultraviolet (UV) exposure during indoor tanning sessions, but are less likely to be exposed to regular outdoor tanning.”[iii]
This is a very small part of this extensive report of this study, and you can read more about it at http://news.yale.edu/2013/06/11/ysph-research-reveals-indoor-tanning-driving-increase-skin-cancer
The American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Dermatology and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have all recommended indoor tanning should be avoided altogether.[iv] It seems that tanning just might not be healthy at all.
The following is list of recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:
- Understand your personal risk factors – such as fair skin, excess sun exposure, family history of skin cancer, weakened immune system and any precancerous skin conditions
- Begin protecting your skin with sunscreen (SPF 30 or above) and protective clothing, which should include a hat and sunglasses
- Make changes in your outdoor activities – seek out the shade; talk a walk in the evening, sit under an umbrella by the pool
- Schedule a baseline skin examination with a dermatologist
- Track and report any changes in your skin – be on the lookout for moles that change, new moles or skin discolorations, any bleeding, irregular borders or scaling
- Skin cancer can occur places that are not regularly exposed to the sun as well – check between toes, the soles of your feet and in the genital area.[v]
If you or a loved one are ever diagnosed with skin cancer, you might experience scars or disfigurement as a result of the treatment. Keep in mind a board-certified plastic surgeon will understand your concerns and “can surgically remove cancerous and other skin lesions using specialized techniques to preserve your health and your appearance.” [vi] No surgery is without scars, and your plastic surgeon will make every effort to minimize a drastic change in appearance.[vii]