Tanning Causes Rise in Deadly Cancer

Tanning Causes Rise in Deadly Cancer

There is nothing more relaxing than laying out on the beach during the summer. The soothing sounds of the waves crashing to shore in your ears and the fiery sun crisping your bronze skin can be magical. The ultraviolet rays of the sun allow our bodies to naturally produce vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, promoting strong bones and teeth and preventing osteoporosis.

You may then decide to “lay in” a tanning bed to even out those tan lines, or to accelerate your tan. While spending time under the sun—or under the lamp— may be fun, it may also cost you your life.

Wearing sunscreen, seeking shade, and avoiding harmful UV indoor tanning beds are all common preventive ways to ward off skin cancer. However, the U.S. Surgeon General is emphasizing this message after a new report found that ultraviolet radiation exposure from indoor tanning is “completely unavoidable.”

The report, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, directly links melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer with exposure to UV light.

While sun exposure gives off UV light, it is the UV lights from indoor tanning beds that are the most preventable cancer trigger. U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak called recreational tanning a “major public health problem that requires immediate action.”

5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancer each year. According to the report, approximately 63,000 of these cases are melanoma, with about 6,000 of these cases being linked to indoor tanning.

Melanoma is a cancer that develops in pigment cells. It is more serious than other types of skin cancer because it could spread to other parts of the body, making it the leading cause of death from skin disease.

Melanoma develops when damage to the DNA of skin cells (commonly caused my ultraviolet radiation) triggers mutations that cause the damaged skin cells to multiply rapidly. As the cells multiply, they form into malignant tumors. If the cancer is treated early, it is curable. However, once the cancer spreads, it then becomes hard to treat. 9,000 people die each year from melanoma.

“Skin cancer greatly affects quality of life, and it can be disfiguring or even deadly. Medical treatment for skin cancer creates substantial health care costs for individuals, families, and the nation. The number of Americans who have had skin cancer at some point in the last three decades is estimated to be higher than the number for all other cancers combined, and skin cancer incidence rates have continued to increase in recent years,” the report’s executive summary stated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.8% of teens younger than 18 admitted to indoor tanning in 2013. A study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology linked teen indoor tanning with other unhealthy behaviors. The study found that teenage boys who tanned were more likely to take steroids, smoke, and even attempt suicide. Girls who tanned were more likely to use drugs or engage in risky sexual activity. All teens that tan indoors were also linked to be more likely to binge drink and control their weight in unhealthy ways.

Surgeon General Lushniak’s Call to Action stresses that we need to act now to solve the continuous rise of skin cancer rates. The report provides five goals to help reduce these rates. They include: increasing outdoor sun protection (such as shaded areas), providing information about healthy sun habits, promoting policies that benefit the goals of skin cancer prevention, reducing indoor tanning, and strengthening research on skin cancer prevention.

Lushniak recommends wearing tightly woven protective clothes, wearing a hat, seeking shade when possible, using sunscreen, and avoiding long periods of time outdoors during the peak hours of the sun.