Lathering on the suntan lotion may help to protect from the sun’s rays that everyone seems to recognize as dangerous in the summer, but in the winter, people are taking it upon themselves to keep their sun-kissed skin present even when the sun disappears. What many people see as a rich glow to top off the perfect look is actually a health hazard that is affecting more people as the popularity of tanning rises.
Tanning not only increases the risk of getting skin cancer, including melanoma, but it also prematurely ages the skin and alters the skin’s immune system. “[It] can alter the immune system such that it makes it more difficult for you to fight off skin cancer and to fight off something like warts,” said Dr. Jennifer Biglow, a dermatologist of 24 years who received her degree at the University of Minnesota.
Often times a base tan for spring break or a quick session in the tanning bed before a dance is considered to be harmless, but doctors insist that this is not the case. “I would say the very first time you go is considered dangerous. Increased ultraviolet exposure then further increases your risks of side effects,” said Biglow.
A common claim by teenagers and tanning companies alike is that tanning in a booth increases Vitamin D intake, and although this may be true, there are healthier alternatives to achieving the suggested daily amount. “If you have concerns about your levels of Vitamin D, you should take a supplement anywhere from 2000 to 3000 units a day,” said Biglow.
Although 50-year-old men are in the age group with the greatest number of people with melanoma, their numbers are decreasing, while other age groups escalate. “The greatest increase in melanoma are girls between the ages of 16 to 26,” said Biglow.
The popularity of spray tanning has recently grown due to salons popping up all over the nation and a lower risk of health consequences. “Any time you cover your body with a chemical, you know some of it is going to be absorbed. To this date in time, I have never read any reports that it was considered dangerous or toxic,” said Biglow.
And no longer is going to a tanning salon necessary to receive the desired sun-kissed glow. “A lot of spray tanners are just fine, and those that you can buy at Target, or at Macy’s,” said Biglow, “although, they tend to dry your skin a little bit.”
Doctors, like Dr. Jennifer Biglow, would like to encourage people, especially teenage girls, to ditch the tanning booths and take care of their skin. “One of the most easy types of cancer to prevent is skin cancer, and that’s basically by staying out of the sun, wearing a high SPF, staying out of tanning booths, and wearing proper sun-protecting clothing,” said Biglow.