Admit it, having that
“summer glow” that comes from a suntan makes you feel beautiful,
healthy and pretty darn good about yourself. And today, with modern tanning
beds, it’s possible to keep that glow going all year round. Most of us are
aware of the dangers of tanning, but new studies indicate it’s even more
important to stop, whether it be naturally from the sun, or from a tanning bed.
In the US, 35 percent of
adults and 55 percent of college students have tanned in a tanning bed,
according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA). Unfortunately, tanning can lead to tons of problems down
the road — none of them any fun. Scientists are now saying tanning in any way,
shape or form is to be avoided at all costs. Keep reading to find out why.
is at risk

According to a study released
by JAMA Dermatology, over 400,000 cases of skin cancer can be attributed to
indoor tanning in the US alone. They also found that, surprisingly, tanning can
be more deadly than smoking. According to the study, the number of skin cancer
cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases attributed
to smoking. In fact, one in five people who regularly tan in tanning beds
develop cancer later, according to the American Society for Dermatologic
A popular misconception is
that only fair-skinned people need to be concerned about tanning beds or
overexposure to the sun.. While darker skin does have more protective melanin
pigment, skin cancers and premature aging do occur within this group.
Unfortunately, cancer in darker-skinned individuals is more likely to be
detected at a later, more dangerous stage.
one sunburn doubles your chances for developing skin cancer

Research indicates just one
sunburn doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life.
According to WHO, UV radiation
“induces degenerative changes in cells of the skin, fibrous tissue and
blood vessels leading to premature skin aging,” among other dangers. UV
radiation can also weaken the immune system, the organization adds.
can lead to serious damage for your eyes

UV exposure is very dangerous
for your eyesight. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO),
“too much exposure to UV light raises the risks of eye diseases, including
cataracts, growths on the eye and cancer.” Some 12 to 15 million people
worldwide become blind from cataracts annually, of which up to 20 percent may
be caused or enhanced by sun exposure. Studies indicate tanning beds produce UV
levels that are up to 100 times stronger than the sun’s UV rays, which can
cause serious damage to your eyes.
“UV damage to the eyes
may result in the development of cataracts . . . as well as cancer of the uvea,
which is the middle layer of tissue under the white of the eye,” Philip R.
Rizzuto, MD, an ophthalmologist and associate clinical professor of surgery at
the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode
Island, told AAO. “UV damage is cumulative. That’s why teens and young
adults should be particularly careful to protect their eyes from sun
While outdoors,
ophthalmologists recommend you wear 99 percent and higher UV-absorbent
sunglasses and a brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
young aren’t immune

Teens are using tanning beds
at an alarming rate. An estimated 71 percent of tanning salon patrons are girls
and women aged 16-29. With this new trend come horrible stories of young women
in their 20s developing skin cancer. On their website, the Skin Cancer
Foundation highlights several stories of young women who thought tanning was
safe but developed skin cancer at a very young age.
One of those stories come from
a 23-year-old woman named Natalie, who said she began tanning regularly after
she moved from Florida to Boston. She said she used a tanning bed for the first
time when she was 16, and was tanning once every two weeks by the time she was
a freshman in college. By her sophomore year, Natalie said she usually tanned
12-15 minutes at least once a week. When she went home to Florida in the
summers, she regularly “laid out” in the sun with no sunscreen.
“I tanned because I felt
like it made me look prettier and skinner,” she said. “My grandmother
begged me not to tan because she was scared I’d get skin cancer. I was like,
‘No, it’s not going to happen to me.'” Natalie developed in situ melanoma,
which means it is 100 percent curable. After surgery, Natalie was declared
healthy but she is well aware that after her exposure to UVB rays in the
tanning beds, the risk of developing a more dangerous form of melanoma looms in
her future.
“Melanoma robbed me of my
youth — I was a carefree college student and basically thought I was
invincible,” Natalie said. “In fact, I joked about it once, saying
that I might get skin cancer someday, but as long as I was pretty and tan for
the moment, it was okay. How stupid and naive of me to say or even think such a
thing. My scars now make me look like some Frankenstein. Tanning isn’t worth
be fooled by cloudy days

Many people believe cloudy
days decrease the risk of getting a sunburn, so they are less vigilant about
putting on sunscreen or wearing a hat and sunglasses, but doctors warn some of
the worst sunburns can occur on cloudy days. Even through cloud coverage, UV
rays reach the Earth’s surface and your skin.
Some studies, including one
published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, describe an effect called
“cloud enhancement of UV radiation.” According to the study, the
sun’s beams reflect off the sides of clouds, which causes radiation to be more
focused and dangerous for people on the surface of the Earth.
“Don’t be fooled by an
overcast day or a cool breeze!” says the World Health Organization.
“Even a long stay in open shade, for example between buildings, may give a
sensitive person a sunburn on a day with high UV levels.”
winter months are still dangerous

Even though the sun doesn’t
seem as strong in the winter months, it’s just as important to protect yourself
— harmful UVB rays are present year-around.
“If you’re outside, any
uncovered areas of your body are exposed to UV rays,” Susan Chon, M.D.,
associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at MD Anderson, said in an
interview. Though cooler temps can be deceiving, if you’re outside, you’re
still at risk for skin damage. In fact, people enjoying the great outdoors and
the snow in the winter to be extra vigilant, since snow reflects light.
misleading info about vitamin D

Your body produces vitamin D
when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight, especially UVB rays. That doesn’t
mean tanning will up you body’s production. Research indicates the majority of
tanning bulbs actually emit UVA radiation and not the needed UVB radiation.
“No … no… no!,”
Deborah S. Sarnoff, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU School of
Medicine, told the Skin Cancer Foundation. “A tanning bed will never
provide you with the vitamin D that you need, nor is it safer than tanning
outdoors. Not understanding the facts can literally mean the difference between
life and death. Both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation cause
cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. When you lie in an indoor tanning
bed, you are exposed primarily to UVA… But it is UVB (the sun burning rays) —
not UVA — which helps the skin make vitamin D, so you are increasing your risk
of skin cancer without receiving any benefit!”
A safer way to get your needed
vitamin D is to be exposed to a very limited amount of sunlight, eat a healthy
diet or from a vitamin supplement.
opt for protection

The Skin Cancer Foundation
recommends everyone limit outdoor time to between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4
p.m., wears protective clothing, seeks shade when outdoors, and uses a broad
spectrum sunscreen. That recommendation becomes more relevant as climate change
makes the sun more powerful and deadly. One study says ozone depletion, which
allows more UV rays to reach the surface of the Earth, has led to an increase
in skin cancers worldwide, and scientists fear this trend will increase as time
goes by.
It’s even more important that
kids cover up, since children receive the majority of their lifetime sun
exposure before age 18.
“Taking the right
precautions can greatly reduce your child’s chance of developing skin
cancer,” the Skin Cancer Foundation says.
a lesson from the Aussies

In Australia, where ozone
depletion is most prevalent, increases in UVB radiation has increased by 5
percent since 1980. Since then, the number of cases of skin cancer has
exploded. Nearly two-thirds of all Australians will have been diagnosed with
some form of skin cancer by the time they are 70, and that figure is expected
to rise. Australians are so aware of the dangers of the sun that they have
implemented a strict “no hat, no play” policy at schools and
daycares, which means children are forbidden from going outdoors without a
wide-brimmed hat on their little heads.
about a spray tan?

Many people hoping to get that
“summer glow” opt for getting a spray tan to protect themselves from
the dangers of tanning beds or the sun. Unfortunately, this option may not be
as safe as might be expected.
When ABC News, investigated
spray tans, six medical experts in areas ranging across the fields of
dermatology, toxicology and pulmonary medicine said they “have
concerns” about the practice. Their concerns surround dihydroxyacetone
(DHA), the chemical that produces the tan. The danger, they say, comes when
patrons inhale the chemical while getting sprayed.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
the FDA has approved DHA for external application to the skin, but also says it
shouldn’t be applied to the lips, nose or around the eyes — and it shouldn’t be
inhaled. If you do choose to get a spray tan, ask the salon how they protect
you from inhaling the chemical or getting it in your eyes or mouth. They also
recommend wearing goggles, nose plugs and lip balm during your spray tan.
you’ve tanned, have frequent medical checkups

Using tanning beds before the
age of 30 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent, meaning it’s
even more important to get regular skin checks if you’ve tanned in the past.
According to WebMD, you should
call your doctor if you have an irritated or irregular skin growth. This may
include a mole or area of normal skin that has changed color, shape or
appearance; a smooth bump that may look like a mole or cyst; a mole or bump
that itches, bleeds, crusts over, and has not healed in three weeks; or a firm,
pearly bump with tiny blood vessels that look spidery.
the sun, just protect yourself

The consensus among scientists
is to be careful and use protection when enjoying the outdoors. As for tanning
beds, scientists and medical doctors agree the healthy glow that lasts just a
few days is just not worth the damage that can be incurred from the UV rays
your body absorbs in a tanning bed.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.