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January 2, 2007 > Stop tanning

Stop tanning

By Kellie Burton

The experts at The Skin Cancer Foundation urge people who are concerned about their health to stop tanning (indoors and out) in the new year for the sake of their health and beauty. Ultraviolet radiation causes skin cancer, premature aging and weakens the immune system.

"Giving up tanning is as important as eating better, getting more exercise and quitting smoking, which we know are the most popular resolutions," said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "UV radiation is a known carcinogen, just like cigarettes."

Not only is tanning bad for your health, but it is no longer even in style. The time when people are happy with their own skin color has finally arrived. "Radiant isn't about being bronzed, it's about being luminous," said Sarah Brown, Beauty Director, Vogue.

Skin Cancer
The statistics speak for themselves. Skin cancer is a global epidemic with 90 percent of all cases caused by sun exposure. When sunlight strikes skin, a sequence of protective reactions is initiated, triggered by exposure to UVA and UVB radiation. Tanning is the body's natural, biologic response to the harmful rays of the sun. When a tan begins, some damage has already been done. In fact, after decades of worldwide research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), has unequivocally linked sun-bed tanning among young people to melanoma.

Premature Aging
If fear of skin cancer isn't enough of a deterrent to stop tanning, perhaps vanity will be a motivator. The cellular damage caused by ultraviolet radiation is cumulative and often irreversible. The destructive process of photo-aging produces profound structural changes in the skin including fine wrinkles, deep grooves, blotchiness, sagging and a leathery texture.

Some of these changes may appear as early as the age of 20 in anyone who has spent a great deal of time in the sun during childhood and teen years.

Tanning is not only detrimental to one's looks, it is no longer even "in." Savvy women are embracing radiant, luminescent and untanned skin. Beauty insiders claim that "pale is the new tan for spring."

Immune Suppression
While lying in the sun - or even a tanning bed - may feel like a "healthy" thing to do, it is the exact opposite. And, the effects go beyond skin cancer and aging. The skin normally mounts a defense against foreign invaders such as cancers and infections. But getting a tan or sunburn can weaken the immune system, reducing the skin's ability to protect against these invaders. In addition, the sun's rays can reach the cell's nucleus, damaging the DNA. This results in mutations in key genes that otherwise prevent and arrest cancer formation. It can cause cancer directly or by immobilizing the body's natural defenses.

The evidence is undeniable - there are simply no health or beauty benefits t o tanning. The advice of dermatologists and specialists around the world is to use effective sun protection every day.

"We are not telling people to stay out of the sun," said Robins. "We just want people to be safe about sun exposure. If you follow our simple guidelines, you can enjoy the outdoors and still keep your skin healthy."

The Skin Cancer Foundation's Prevention Tips
Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Do not burn.
Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to all exposed areas, 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
Examine your skin from head-to-toe every month.
See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam.

For more information about melanoma and to learn more about how to protect your skin, visit www.skincancer.org, or call 1-800-Skin-490.

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