If you’ve e-mailed me recently, you already know that I’m not at my desk this week, but what you don’t know is that MediChick is in Hawaii!! In preparation for the big event, a lot of people told me that I need a ‘base tan.’ I have been so busy that laying out in the sunshine hasn’t really been an option for me, and I started to consider a tanning salon. Now, I know that there is a lovely 10% tax on tanning thanks to PPACA, but I also know it increases the chances of getting cancer, so the question is… is it worth it?
More than half of adults think a “base tan” is a healthy way to protect skin from sun damage, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Dermatology.
This explains why so many people told me this is something I ‘have to have’ prior to a vacation. It is common belief. Here’s why:
Ultraviolet light stimulates the production of melanin, the dark pigmintation, which then surrounds the core of cells to protect the DNA. This melanin substance absorbs and/or scatters radiation.
Ok, so most people believe a base tan to be helpful because it increases melanin in our skin which can prevent skin damage, BUT… it all depends on what you mean by ‘skin damage.’
According to Sarah Stein, a professor of dermatology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, “we want to protect ourselves from [both] tanning and burning. Although having a base tan might help prevent sunburns, the tan itself already indicates sun damage.”
Right, so if any tan is a sign of ‘skin damage,’ then we really aren’t talking about the same thing. We have to separate the cancer risk from the sunburn risk in order to compare apples to apples. If you want a base tan to prevent getting cancer, it’s likely a myth. But in order to compare properly, the problem that has to be dealth with is that no one really wants to show all of their cards. The American Cancer society’s research (below) doesn’t say if the people they surveyed who didn’t use tanning beds still went tanning at all. I’d like to see a survey on people who spend an equal amount of time under sun UV vs. tanning bed UV and see who has the higher cancer risk. I have a feeling that a tanning bed user and a sun worshiper are both going to have a high cancer risk.
Indoor tanning beds increase the melanoma risk up to 74 percent, according to a study published in a journal from the American Association for Cancer Research.
Researchers analyzed 1,167 adults with melanoma and compared their indoor tanning habits with 1,101 adults without melanoma. Not surprisingly, the more time people spent on tanning beds, the higher their risk.
See what I mean? Are the 1,101 adults without melanoma people with any tan at all? Yes, research shows tanning beds increase cancer risk. Bit increased compared to what? Compared to people who don’t ever go outside at all and never get a tan? Well, of course it would be an increased risk in that comparison. But I’m not so sure I believe the percentages. I’m sure outdoor tanning increases risk, too. A better study is needed.
So is a base tan a myth? It depends on why you want one and how you get it. It appears true that having a tan protects your cells from burning, so in that respect I would think a base tan is helpful, but if you use a tanning bed to get a base tan, it will likely increase your cancer risk. However, they still need a study on tanning in a bed vs. tanning outside before I’ll believe the statistics on it. This lack of research makes it very difficult to answer the original quesiton here of “is it worth it?”
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