Think tanning beds are no big deal? The latest studies show that you could be playing with fire.
As I was browsing through the June/July issue of Teen Vogue, I came across this fantastic article by Richa Gulati talking about how young adults, mainly young girls, in the summer tend to think its competition when it comes to tanning. Well, I completely agreed with just about everything in the article, and many things that were mentioned intimidated me. There was a story about a redhead girl with a milky white complexion, Meghan, who was always teased for her pale skin. Meghan revealed that people would call her dead, or even see-through. When Meghan was seventeen, she got a tan on vacation that she was determined to keep. She soon started using tanning beds once a week for two years to maintain her new skin color, without her parents' knowledge. Later on during a physical, Meghan asked her doctor about a dark and itchy mole on her stomach. It was diagnosed as Stage II melanoma, the most harmful form of skin cancer. Meghan went through surgery the next month to remove a part of her stomach skin and eight lymph nodes under her arms. A five inch scar from 70 stitches is a visible reminder of the cancer. Her doctor confirmed that he frequent use of tanning beds caused the skin cancer. Meghan admitted that the salon felt safe and sterile so it didn't seem that bad. It's a common misconception that tanning beds are a safe way to get color, but the truth is that they'll expose you to very harmful levels of radiation which are known to cause cancers that can be fatal. "Tanning is the body's way of showing damage. Skin darkens from UV exposure because the body adds pigment in response to tissue injury," says David E. Fisher, M.D., chairman of the dermatology department and professer at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "Many people believe that a tan is a natural and healthy and a sunburn is the sign of sun overexposure. Actually, all forms of tanning, with or without burns, are dangerous." Fisher thinks that the use of tanning beds is dangerous behaviour, and studies show he's right. Young adults who use tanning beds increase their chance of developing melanoma by 75 percent, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Rates of the disease among young women are also rapidly on the rise. In the last 30 years, melanoma diagnoses have increased by nearly 50 percent. Alongside melanoma, doctors believe that two other common types of cancer are also connected to sun-less tanning. "Squamos and basal cell carcinomas are cancers linked to indoor tanning and are far more common than melanoma. They recieve less attention since they're less likely to kill," Fisher says, "but treatment can still involve major surgery and scars." If teens and tanning booths are such a dangerous mix, why do 2 million teens nationwide use these machines annually? It's partly because businesses aggressively advertise the supposed benefits of tanning beds. "There's no way to reverse the damage that's been done, but quitting immediately is the only way to minimize health risks," Vilma Cokkinides, Ph.D., a director of risk research at the American Cancer Society. Meghan, now fully recovered, spreads the message by volunteering with the Melanoma Foundation of New England and the American Academy of Dermatology. But some teens aren't so lucky. Jaime Regen Rea, from Texas, a frequent tanning bed user, would spend her school lunch hour secretly at a local salon. At 20, Jaime was diagnosed with melanoma, which she battled for nine years before passing away. "Jaime wanted a 'killer' tan, and that's exactly what she got," says her mother, Donna. "She would want other girls to know that the 'glow' she got from tanning beds, which she thought was so attractive as a teenager, caused her years of pain, from having large disfiguring scars and losing her hair to needing an oxygen tank to breathe. Jaime's headstone is the harsh reality of what tanning can do to a young woman who was beautiful jsut the way she was." The BEST advice is learn to love the skin you're in so that you don't have to change it with sun or tanning beds.