The weather outside heats up. Summer approaches, and you can’t wait to get outside. Soak up sunrays, enjoy barbecues and hear, “You looked so relaxed,” from co-workers when you come into the office Monday morning, when actually you are just tan. What you may not know is your tan is killing you. There is no such thing as a safe tan. Tanning is a sign of sun damage and can lead to skin cancer, which affects roughly 2 million people in the United States every year. May is Skin Cancer Awareness month- make it your mission this month and every month to spread the word about the dangers of tanning.
Myth #1: Tanning helps treat acne
Tanning does help hide acne, but the UV rays ultimately dry the skin. Your skin will try to fix this by producing more of its own oils making the problem worse. But the sun doesn’t actually clear your skin- what you’re seeing is the tan darkening the skin around blemishes, making them stand out less.
Myth #2: A base tan is safe because it will prevent you from burning the rest of the summer
No tan is safe because a tan is the body’s response to UV rays damaging DNA in the skin cells. You look tan because the DNA has already been damaged. Furthermore, past damage doesn’t protect you from future sun exposure. It makes you more susceptible to other effects of sun damage like wrinkles and cancer.
Myth #3: We need more Vitamin D from the sun
The sun is a good source of Vitamin D, which is an essential vitamin in bone health, leading many to believe tanning is healthy. However, research on the benefits of Vitamin D indicates that brief exposure of your arms, hands and face- about 15 minutes a day for three days a week- is sufficient. You can avoid the sun altogether and get your Vitamin D from other sources like milk, fish and eggs or simply taking vitamin D daily.
Myth #4: People with darker-toned skin don’t have to worry about sun damage
Skin color is determined by the amount of melanin in the outer layer of the skin, which also helps protect the skin against sun damage. In darker skin, melanin provides an SPF equal to approximately 13.4, compared to 3.4 in white skin. This variance explains why skin cancer is more common in Caucasians, however darker toned skins can still burn. Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, occurs in all races.
This summer, stay safe from the sun by wearing a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30. Apply it 30 minutes before heading outside and be sure to re-apply every two hours. To learn more about sun safety and skin cancer prevention, visit preventcancer.org.
Don’t mess with the sun!