The Harms of Tanning

By Naomi Gomez-Acosta/GG Staff

As the days get warmer and the sun shines bright, we start to see those pesky tan lines. However what people don’t take into consideration is how those sunburns and constant tanning can be putting you in danger.

According to the American Cancer Society, Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and other sources, such as tanning beds, are the number one cause of skin cancer, or, to be more specific, Melanoma Skin Cancer. The scary part about melanoma is that it’s not detected right away.

The main factor that lead to this type of cancer are the UV rays. UV rays can damage the DNA in skin cells. Sometimes this damage affects certain genes that control how skin cells grow and divide. If these genes no longer work properly, the affected cells may become cancer cells.

The main source of this melanoma is by sun exposure and man-made tanning devices. Since this cancer takes time, it can develop within years. However some of the damage can come from exposure done earlier. Sometimes children and young adults get intense exposure, however the cancer will appear decades later.

“My husband’s former classmate developed melanoma and passed away within a few months of diagnosis,” said Mrs. Nevitt, journalism teacher. “She spent a lot of time outside playing softball and other sports as a teenager. She died in her early forties. They just didn’t catch the cancer in time.”

If you enjoy being outside there are ways to prevent any damage.

First, avoid being exposed to UV rays much as possible. The best way to do this is to seek shade. Whether you’re at a bonfire, or simply taking a walk. Go under a tree and stay there for a couple of minutes.

According to the American Cancer Society, avoid using tanning beds. They mention that easiest way to cause damage is by exposing yourself the dangerous UV rays emitted by these beds. They also mention that tanning bed use has been linked to an increase in melanoma if used before the age of 30.

If you enjoy being outside you should wear sunscreen. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are ways to identify which sunscreen will protect you from the UV rays.

The sunscreen should be broad spectrum (UVA/UVB). For everyday use it should be an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, use water resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Apply one ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. Make sure to check your skin head to toe for any abnormal mole or spot growth.

These tips and recommendations will help make sure you stay safe whenever you’re outdoors. Also, take plenty of fluids and always wear sunscreen.

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The Harms of Tanning