Spring Break = Sun, Fun, and Skin Cancer Forever?

There’s something a bit magical about this time of year. There are hints that Spring will soon be here; the days are starting to get a little longer, my hyacinths and daffodils are peeking through the ground...and some of my coworkers are starting to look tan (and burnt) even though they haven’t been on vacation!

Tanning bed damages

Having had skin cancer for over twenty years, I have to admit it is at times difficult for me to not “gently” suggest they refrain from going to the tanning bed. As I watch them turn varying shades of pink, red, then brown (or really, really red), I know what they’re doing to their skin, and it’s not a good thing. Going to a tanning salon is not “safer” than lying in the sun. Tanning bed usage can lead to premature aging of one’s skin (including wrinkles, droopy skin, and/or brown spots on the skin). That doesn’t sound so cute, does it?

Learn the stats, ditch the tanning myths

If the thought of that isn’t enough to turn you off from going to a tanning bed, how about this? According to Skincancer.org, people who use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk of getting melanoma by 75%, and as many as 90% of melanomas are estimated to be caused by UV exposure. And to those who say that getting a base tan will protect against sunburn on vacation, that is not true. A person can still get a sunburn on vacation even if they start their vacation with a tan, which is why it’s important to practice good sun habits while having fun in the sun!

Skin cancer isn't pretty

If you are one of the people who like to frequent a tanning bed to get a ‘base tan’ before vacation, please stop. And especially, if you’re a younger person – please, please stop. You may like how you look with a tan, but you are doing so much damage to your skin that you aren’t even aware of. You may not notice it yet, but there’s a good chance the damage will start to show up as you get older. Battling skin cancer for most of your adult life isn’t something to look forward to. Believe me, skin cancer isn’t fun, and it isn’t pretty. My first skin cancer diagnosis came when I was in my late 20’s. I had a small dot of basal cell carcinoma on my face under my eye, and that surgery resulted in my being cut in the shape of a large “J” down my face and across my cheek. When I saw the incision after surgery, I was horrified. Thankfully I had an excellent plastic surgeon perform the surgery, and I cannot even see that scar today. However, I do have other scars that are still visible from subsequent surgeries.

Tan today, cancer scars later

I’m now in my early 50’s, and the skin cancer won’t go away. I’ve had far too many cancerous and pre-cancerous areas removed. I have white circular areas on my skin from laser removal of skin cancer. I have scars on my skin ranging from a quarter inch to three inches in length from surgical excision of skin cancer. I have numbness on my forehead and scalp and also by my mouth from my doctor having to move nerves during surgery to remove skin cancer. Every day I look in the mirror and wonder if I have any new skin cancer areas. Every new suspicious area brings a sense of dread and anxiety. I used to love to lay out in my younger days and attempt to get a tan, which I thought would make me look better and feel better. Boy was I ever wrong.

Bottom line – there is no such thing as a “safe tan.” Enjoy your upcoming vacations, but please be sun smart and take good care of your skin. You are worth it!

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