Maybe it's an upcoming special event, or perhaps you've always yearned to have golden skin. You know tanning is a no, no, but do you know why?
The urge to be tan
Being tan didn't become popular until the 1920s when women's fashions started revealing more skin. Coco Chanel, a French fashion designer and icon of the time, also helped popularize the tan when she sported one in 1923. As the years passed, women became more involved with outdoor activities, exposing them to sunburns. Suddenly tans became the new symbol of wealth and leisure. A tan in the winter meant an individual could afford to vacation somewhere warm.
These days, the obsession to be tan is diminishing as the word gets out about skin cancer. People may be more careful about sun exposure, but they're not completely reformed. One million people still visit tanning salons every day and 70 percent of them are women.
How tanning beds work?
"Tanning beds are lined with lamps that produce UV light," explained Susan Fedinec, DO, family practice physician with Edward Medical Group. "The bulbs prompt the skin to produce more melanin, giving it a darker appearance over the next 48 hours. However, this is your body's response to an injury. A tanning bed burns your skin, mimicking a sunburn," Dr. Fedinec added.
Dangers of UV light
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, radiation exposure from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and other skin cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
"Tanning beds emit ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays," Dr. Fedinec said. "UVA rays lead to premature aging, eye damage and weaken the immune system. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns. Both are considered carcinogens that can mutate the DNA in skin cells, causing benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) growths," she said.
A new way to look at yourself
Have you considered that your natural, untanned self is beautiful? Acceptance is an amazing thing. But if you can't bear the thought of looking at your pale self, Dr. Fedinec recommends spray tans or self-tanning lotions, which don't pose a threat for skin cancer. Ask your health care provider to recommend products free of harmful chemicals. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database is also helpful for researching cosmetics and personal care products. Go to CosmeticsDatabase.com
As another precaution, see your health care provider each year for a clinical skin exam. He or she can help identify suspicious spots and treat them.
To learn more about Dr. Fedinec or any of our other Edward Medical Group primary care providers, visit EdwardMedicalGroup.org.