Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring: The Teen Tanning Season

Spring. The season for growth and new beginnings. A time to turn our backs to a dark, cold winter and look ahead to the warmth and light of summer. Many of us celebrate the season by planting our gardens, spring cleaning, planning summer activities, or digging our light and airy clothes out of storage and replacing them with our winter wear. But for many teenagers across the country, in spring their thoughts turn to the wonders of Spring Break and Prom ... and with their preparation for these important events comes increased use of tanning beds. 

Vanity trumps everything for teens, and they must, at all costs, have a certain darker skin tone to go with their prom gown or their shorts and bikinis. What they are unaware of (or just don't care about) is that each use of tanning beds puts them closer to the pain and fear of melanoma, the deadly kind of skin cancer. So by putting out the welcome mat for this disease and other skin cancers, they are quite possibly shattering all the wonderful memories of these annual teen rituals.

I know one such young lady who frequently used tanning beds to darken her very pale skin ... after all, "everyone" was doing it. It was just the thing to do among teens in the mid-1990s, and sadly that has not changed. The particular teen I am talking about is my daughter Jaime ... and this is one of her prom pictures. Notice the tan? Well, then you can also see what killed her a few years later!

Read more of Jaime's story on my blogs Blowing Out Birthday Candles and With This Ring.

Melanoma facts

Melanoma is the number 1 cause of cancer death in young women between 25 and 29 years of age (Jaime was 29 when she died from melanoma) and number 2 in young adults 15 to 29 years old ... and it can be prevented in many cases by avoiding tanning beds and practicing sun safety. Tanning bed use has been linked with an increased risk of melanoma, especially if it's started before age of 30. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is projected to kill 9,710 US citizens in 2014, about one person every hour of every day.

Tanning myths


Back when Jaime was tanning, the indoor tanning industry was spreading misinformation (aka lies) about the "benefits" of using tanning beds. And sadly, nothing has changed!

  • Myth: Tanning beds will give you a "base tan," so you won't get burned by the sun when you hit the slopes or beach for Spring Break.   ***   WRONG!! A "base tan" from tanning beds is a great base for skin cancer and melanoma but doesn't protect your skin. The CDC says, "A tan is the body's response to injury from UV [ultraviolet] rays, showing that damage has been done. A "base tan" only provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of about 3 or less, which does little to protect you from future UV exposure." It's a deadly myth! 

  • Myth: I have to get tan to look good.  ***  WRONG!! Embrace your natural skin color. It was given to you for a reason. A "golden glow" has been made socially popular through magazines and reality TV, but in the real world, that tan can kill you, just like it killed my Jaime. And if you do survive, your skin will pay the price if you torture it in a tanning bed, by gifting you with fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, and brown spots ... not to mention the possibility of any or all of the three kinds of skin cancer. Your eyes can also be abused by tanning beds because the UV rays can penetrate through your closed eyelids, possibly putting cataracts or cancer of the eye in your not too distant future. And don't forget the other things you can get from a tanning bed besides a tan ... genital or skin warts, rashes, and infections ... all for the same price!

  • Myth: I don't need to worry about sun protection on cloudy or rainy days.  ***  WRONG!! UV rays, not temperature, do the damage to your skin. Clouds do not block the rays, they only filter them slightly.

  • Myth: Tanning indoors is safer than in sun.  ***  WRONG!! Even though tanning beds operate on a timer, your exposure to the UV rays varies based on age and type of bulbs. Some tanning beds give you up to 12 times the intensity of the noonday sun. But that doesn't mean you can safely lay in the sun for hours without protection. Be sun smart too!

  • Myth: Using tanning beds just for Spring Break or Prom isn't enough radiation to hurt you. ***  WRONG!! Just one indoor tanning session increases your chances of developing melanoma by 20%, and each additional session during same year increases your risk by almost another 2%. Also consider that the UV radiation our body absorbs is cumulative ... and we have no pop-up timer to tell us when we have had more than our lifetime limit. That one time tanning bed session might be just the one to push you over your allotment, so if you enjoy playing Russian roulette with your life, go for it!

  • Myth: The vitamin D you get from using tanning beds will make you healthier and protect you from cancer and other diseases.   ***  WRONG!! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, vitamin D is received through exposure to UVB rays, and the bulbs used in tanning beds mainly emit UVA rays. There are better ways to get vitamin D (10 minutes of sunlight, diet, or supplements) than frying in a tanning bed and putting yourself in danger.

  • Myth: Tanned skin is healthy skin.   ***  WRONG!! The FDA says, “Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage.”
    The science is clear; there are no health benefits from tanning beds that can't be obtained more safely and without risk of skin cancer.

The Tanning Truth

Truth: There is no good reason to use tanning beds, but there are lots of reasons not to!

If my little prom princess Jaime were alive, she would tell you that no tan is worth dying for! Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It protects you, and you should protect it in return. Stay out tanning beds ... and practice safe sun by wearing sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses or by seeking shade. Don't be the dead girl with a tan! It's just not that cool!!

For more information on melanoma and/or on the dangers of tanning beds, see

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna)

Twitter: @melanoma_mama
Facebook: (Remember Jaime) (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds)
Etsy: (Jjem Creations)
Ebay: (Jjem Creations)

1 comment:

  1. Tanning your body is surely a popular tend, specifically when you are going to attend the prom parties and other events like graduation parties and birthdays. I used to tan my body previously, but while performing my research on internet; I came to know that too much tanning may leads to skin cancer or dermatitis as per the guidelines of FDA. I found your blog very informative with regards to tanning. Thanks for your information. Great Information!!!!