A woman stands in the center of an image, surrounded by a menacing tropical background as two people on either side compare their vacation tans.

Are My Coworkers Really Competing for the Best Tan?

I walked into the conference room at work a few months ago and noticed that two of my coworkers sitting around the table were quite tan. They had both been to Florida and looking at them across the table, I couldn’t stop staring at their faces.

Seemingly unaware of tanning risks

Soon, everyone (or almost everyone – not me) was telling them how healthy and well-rested they looked, focusing on the tan on their faces and arms. We were gathered in the conference room for a surprise wedding shower celebration for one of our colleagues, so it was a relaxed conversation.

About 5 minutes later, another coworker walked in with a tan that was impossible not to notice. “You look amazing,” someone said, as others chimed in with agreement. “Where were you and how did you get so tan?” He said he had been to St. Croix, and spent his vacation snorkeling, scuba diving, hanging out at the beach and on the water. Now in addition to looking very tan, I’m sure his time relaxing and not working added to his healthful glow, but most everyone was focusing on his tan.

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Should I be speaking up about skin cancer prevention?

I didn’t say anything. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I just couldn’t say anything in front of everyone I work with. And what was I going to say? Could I really say, “Hey guys, it’s not healthy to get a tan, you can get skin cancer from spending too much time in the sun?” I do talk about my skin cancer to my friends and coworkers, but that just didn’t seem like the right moment to do so.

In hindsight, it was probably would have been a good time to bring it up. But I really don’t know what impact it would have had for me to start telling everyone about the dangers of sitting in the sun, while we were celebrating someone’s upcoming wedding. I did make a mental note to talk more about my skin cancer at other times, but I didn’t say anything during that gathering. Now I’m wondering if I made the right decision. I do look for chances to educate people and increase awareness about the dangers of the sun and how to stay safe in the sun, but again, I wasn’t sure that was the right time or venue to do so.

When is it appropriate to speak up about skin cancer?

Has anyone been in a situation like this and actually said something? I do think there’s a time and place for discussions about sun safety, a time when people may be more receptive to the message. And part of why I’m writing this is to remind myself to find the time and place to talk to my coworkers. But again, I’m wondering, have any of you made a statement about sun safety in direct response to seeing someone who is tan, in front of a group of people? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks.

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