Tanning beds are hotspots for cancer

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    By MARY WILLIAMS

    With temperatures rising outside, obtaining the perfect tan is on the minds of many students. However, students should think twice before opting for this kind of tan.

    While many students feel that it is safe to prep themselves for summer weather by going to tanning booths, the booths do not offer a better alternative to safe tanning.

    Dr. Pearon G. Lang, Jr., discounts the claim of many tanning salons that tanning in booths are safer than staying in the direct sun. Pearon said that people burn just as easily under artificial light as they do in sunlight.

    “Many tanning salons have switched to UVA rays, which were at one time thought to be less harmful than UVB. But UVA penetrates more deeply, damaging elastic tissue … the intensity of UVA in a tanning parlor is twice that of sunbathing at high noon on the beach in summer, thus increasing risk,” Lang said.

    Dr. Paul Groneman, who has been a family physician for more than 46 years, agreed that tanning salons are very risky. “Many tanning salons lure people in by giving off the image that if you have a tan, you look healthy — this is just not true. Your natural skin color is much healthier.”

    Groneman said with more and more people being diagnosed with skin cancer, one of the worst things a person can do in life is to get a suntan.

    Groneman said the most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma and that it is caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet light.

    Melanoma is unlike many other forms of cancer because it most frequently affects young people, Dr. Arthur J. Sober, wrote in Cancer Journal for Clinicians. In the United States, melanoma is the second leading cause of death in males age 15 to 35.

    “Of course, if you do suntan, it does not mean you will necessarily get skin cancer, but you are more susceptible to it,” Groneman said. “In fact, the younger you start suntanning, the more likely you are to develop some type of skin cancer later on in life.”

    According to Sober, people who have had blistering sunburns in adolescence have double the risk of developing melanoma later in life than those who have not suffered such sunburns. Aside from those who burn easily, those who do not readily tan, freckle, have a fair complexion or have a family history of cancer are at increased risk.

    “You young people need to be careful,” Groneman said. “If you go out in the sun, dress appropriately. If you go to a football game, don’t go without a hat and some type of sunscreen to protect you from the sun. If you are mowing the lawn or working in the garden, cover up. Be sensible.”

    Awareness of the consequences of suntanning is just the first step. Students must also learn their bodies and do self-examinations to detect any unusual abnormalities in their skin. An example of this is if a mole changes color or size, etc.

    Above all, prevention is a very critical step in fighting skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology and the American Cancer Society are now cosponsoring a sun-safety program for children in kindergarten through grade three.

    “It is hoped that, by developing good sun-safety habits early in life, these habits will carry through into adolescence and adult life as a natural behavior similar to the daily brushing of one’s teeth,” Sober said.

    For more information about skin cancer, BYU’s Cancer Awareness Group has monthly meetings and activities. Interested students can call Laura Bagley at 375-9924.

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