As the skin cancer rate continues to rise, many of us can’t help but wonder why people continue to expose themselves to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A tan, whether it’s acquired from the pool, in a salon or through incidental exposure, is always dangerous.
The use of tanning beds today is an especially common practice among teenagers, specifically the female population. What many young girls don’t realize, however, is that the bronzed image they so desire is only the skin’s visible reaction to damage from harmful UV rays. Melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, is now the second most common cancer seen in young adults. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, nearly 28 million people tan indoors in the United States annually. Of these, 2.3 million are teens. Their findings go on to report that 70 percent of tanning salon users are Caucasian girls and women, primarily aged 16 to 29 years.
Skin cancer aside, basking in UV rays—indoor or outdoors—also leads to premature aging of the skin. That means that even just a few minutes of exposure each day over the years without protection can cause noticeable changes to the skin later in life. Freckles, age spots, leathery skin, wrinkles, saggy skin and uneven skin tone can all be traced to UV exposure.
The good news is that skin cancer and premature aging of the skin can easily be prevented. For one, stay away from tanning beds. Pediatricians also recommend that children and teens wear proper clothing, hats and sunglasses when outdoors. Always use sunscreen and avoid exposure during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There is no such thing as a safe tan. Talk to your teen about the serious, life-threatening consequences of tanning. If your teen insists on a sun-kissed glow, suggest safer sunless methods, such as spray tans and other sunless gels or creams.