Consider risks of tanning

Addie Curlis and Addie Curlis

Upcoming bathing suit season makes the perfect tan tempting. But more and more students are realizing the risks of tanning.

Emily Steele, senior, is one of those students. She isn’t letting herself fall into the trap of having to tan in order to confidently wear a bathing suit this summer.

“Being tan has become the norm so anyone in a bathing suit with white skin looks kind of funny compared to everyone else,” Steele said. “I think a lot of people, including me, feel better about themselves when they are tan, especially in bathing suits.”

Steele admitted she used to tan frequently until someone close to her was diagnosed with stage IV Melanoma skin cancer.

The devastating knowledge of her step-dad having cancer prompted her to rethink her tanning habits.

“He asked me to promise him that I would never go tanning again, so I did and I plan on keeping that promise,” Steele said.

Exposing your skin to harmful ultraviolet light comes with a cost – your health. Melanoma is now the eighth most common cancer in the United States and accounts for 75 percent of the deaths due to skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Tracy Donovan is a nursing student who works closely with a local dermatologist. She said skin cancer does not usually become evident until later in a person’s life. However, it is because of the behaviors of when they are young and carefree.

In Ohio, 66 percent of all melanoma cancer occurs in people over the age of 50, Donovan said.

Frequent tanners also risk premature aging. Wrinkles, she added, will be more obvious for excessive tanners.

As the weather gets warmer, students have been outside doing numerous activities while enjoying the sun. Tanning outside between the hours of ten in the morning and four in the afternoon is highly dangerous, said Donovan. It is recommended to wear sunscreen that has a factor of SPF 30 or higher.

“Tanning beds are 10 times worse than natural sunlight,” Donovan said.

Another danger is using bronzers to increase the intensity of a tan. According to the American Cancer Society, bronzers have been proven to increase the risk of skin cancer. Donovan suggests students use sunless tanning lotion or switch to the spray-on tanning option at tanning salons. The spray-on tanning eliminates sun damage due to the lack of ultraviolet light.

“There is no safe ultraviolet light,” Donovan said. “Students who tan should stop and use a sunless tanner after using exfoliating body wash.”

Even with science proving the risks of tanning, other studies have shown some benefits. Some evidence has shown that sunlight decreases the rate of season affective disorder, according to Stepani Hathaway, a psychology resident at the counseling center. Tanners should be informed that it’s natural sunlight, not tanning beds, which offer such benefits. “There is no evidence of tanning beds reducing the rate of seasonal affective disorder. However, the rates are lower in warmer areas of the state,” Hathaway said.

Some students say another benefit of tanning is that it gives them a chance to relax. For Bianca Hutchinson, senior, relaxing in a tanning bed is also a form of physical therapy. She still suffers from backaches after injuries from a near fatal car accident a year ago.

“Tanning helps my back feel better because it feels like a giant heating pad,” Hutchinson said.

For other students, tanning just feelings relaxing because it is a break from a busy schedule, said Barb Hoffman, Health and Promotions Coordinator of the Student Health Services.

“Some may think they are less stressed when tanning because they are lying down for twenty minutes at a time so who knows if it’s the actually tanning that is reducing their stress levels,” Hoffman said.

Tanning is a personal choice and it’s important to know all the possible risks and benefits.

Former tanner Steele weighed the costs and benefits and doesn’t regret her choice to stop tanning. However, she said she feels different now in a bathing suit.

Steele said it took extra self confidence to be the “whitest person in the Bahamas” on spring break this year.

“More important than looking good in a bathing suit is feeling good in a bathing suit,” Steele said.