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Dangers of tanning

We know that it has been a long winter, and we are all looking a little pale and droopy. We also know that many of you are thinking about Spring Break, sunshine, warm beaches and those gentle southern breezes. We further know that you are thinking about an early start to that Spring Break tan by visiting a tanning bed.

Tanning beds, although quicker than the sunlight, are no safer. They are in fact more dangerous because of the higher intensity, and they reach a deeper level of skin.

Over exposure to ultraviolet light is the cause of skin cancer, including some forms of melanoma. While skin cancer has been associated with severe burns, moderate tanning may also produce the same effects.

The number of skin cancer cases has been rising steadily over the past several years and more than one million new cases are likely to be diagnosed this year in the United States. The incidence of skin cancer increases over a period of years as damage to the skin accumulates. Unfortunately, since the damage is not immediately visible, many people are often unaware of the dangers of tanning. Physicians and scientists are especially concerned that cases will continue to increase as people who are now in their teens and 20s reach middle age.

Overexposure to ultraviolet light can also have damaging effects on your immune system and eyes, cause skin spots and premature aging of your skin, giving it a wrinkled, leathery look.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control encourage people to avoid use of tanning beds and sun lamps as well as other artificial tanning methods. Tanning pills contain a color additive that turns your skin orange. While the FDA has approved this color additive for coloring food, they indicate that the large amount found in tanning pills may be harmful.

Tanning makeup is put on the skin to make it appear tan. Sometimes the color comes off with soap and water and other times, it must wear off. These products are not sunscreen lotions and will not protect your skin from the sun. Certain medications can also increase the risk of using a tanning bed or spending time in the sun including antihistamines, some antibiotics, tranquilizers and others.

There are some other things you can do to protect yourself including using a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 on all exposed skin (especially eyelids, nose, ears, neck, hands and feet) and reapply often especially if swimming. Sunscreen use is even more important for people with freckles.

Wearing a hat and sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of the sun’s rays are also a necessity.

Please play it safe, not only for Spring Break, but for that time 20 years down the road when it will all catch up with you.

Hang in there – Spring is coming!

Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN

School Nurse