Cancer Coffins

I don’t have much experience with tanning beds.  I’ve been once in my entire life shortly before I wed my beautiful wife.  I probably lasted 5 minutes laying under those crazy neon lights, and the butt burn I received in that short time caused me a week of extreme discomfort.  Truth is, I have never been a colossal fan of just laying out in the sun or going to a tanning bed.  And yet here I am.

The more I’ve dug my toes into the painful realities of Melanoma over the last two years, our culture trends towards being tan become even more painfully disturbing.  One trend in particular that often interferes with my sanity is indoor tanning.  It’s one thing to be out in the sun constantly and not do anything to protect your skin from being damaged.  It’s another thing to consistently fork out money to go lay in a bed that exposes you to UVA radiation.  To have a completely honest moment here in the middle of this paragraph, I get very uncomfortable around individuals who intentionally and harmfully tan their skin, whether they know my story or not. I confess that I struggle with defending my heart against bitterness and pride, and often fail to look past a simple flaw and love them as Christ would.  Facial expressions and words (or lack there of) reflect my heart all too often.  But despite this struggle, I truly believe that sharing information about the harmful effects of these deadly habits can be very helpful.

Indoor Tanning

We’ve heard the term cancer coffins many times over. But evidence has shown that the use of indoor tanning beds has increased since the 1990’s. In fact, since 1997, the popularity of indoor tanning has exploded, especially among women under age 30. Only a few tanning salons existed in the United States in the early 1980s.  Today, more than 30 million Americans use commercial tanning beds each year and more than 1 million use them a day.

Here’s some other revealing stats that I’ve been able to piece together.   The top 10 states for Melanoma occurrence are:

1) California

2)Florida

3)New York

4)Texas

5)Pennsylvania

6)Ohio

7)Michigan

8)Illinois

9) North Carolina

10) New Jersey

Now, let’s do comparing.   I recently came across an article posted in 2007 on a website that recognizes the Top 250 tanning salons in the United States (http://www.lookingfit.com/articles/2007/02/the-top-250-report.aspx).  The article states that “The highest number of tanning salons per capita are found in the Midwest and Southeast, with Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Florida having the most salons.” So let’s play the matching game…5 of the states that reportedly have the highest number of tanning salons are states that are also found in the top 10 for Melanoma occurrence in America.  Coincidence?

UVA radiation used in tanning beds is three times the amount of harmful radiation emitted by the sun.  UVA rays from tanning beds penetrate deep into the skin; they destroy skin fibers and damage elasticity, causing premature aging, wrinkles and leathery skin.  “Exposure to tanning beds before the age of 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75%, and younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them.  Even occasional use of tanning beds triples their chances (IARC Lancet Oncology, publication of July 2009).” 75%!!  That’s insane!

In 2009as a result of the jaw dropping data that continues to swarm studies, “the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that it had placed UV tanning beds into its highest cancer risk category: ‘carcinogenic’ to humans (MRF).” For those of you who are not sure what carcinogenic refers to, it is any substance that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer.   Or perhaps you’ve heard of the term before when referring to tobacco use, because cigarettes have long been placed into his category as well.  Obviously tanning and tobacco use have their differences, but in my opinion I see striking resemblances in the people that make use of the two.   You’re either 1)naive, 2)addicted, or 3)someone who for whatever reason, doesn’t care .

Experts have attributed increased melanoma rates to the increases in unprotected UV exposure.  Yet indoor tanning remains a perfectly legal pastime and a multi billion dollar industry, despite its dangers.  Should vanity be outlawed?

Next Post: My Contribution in Life (not Melanoma)

In Pursuit of Him,

Jason

To register for Denny’s Challenge which is a race this Saturday (July 14) that raises support of Melanoma or to donate money to our fundraiser that goes directly to the Melanoma Research Foundation go to http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jasonnorton/MFMDennysChallenge5k2012.  We would love to see you all there!

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Excuses vs. Facts

To begin, I would just like to point out that most all of the information that I dig up in these posts have a source.  You can learn a whole hunk of information about Melanoma by visiting the Melanoma Research Foundations website http://www.melanoma.org/.  Many of the facts and data that I pour into these posts comes from the very lengthy annual report that the foundation puts out about their research. 

The fact is that in the U.S. in 1940 your chances of getting Melanoma in your lifetime was about 1 in 1500.  As of 2010, that number has dramatically increased to 1 in 50.   Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and worldwide.  When it comes to the color tone of our skin, the trend of our culture towards the “darker is more beautiful” concept is turning out to be a deadly one.  This obsession has led all of us to doing what we humans do best, make excuses and intetionally ignore the ramifications of our choices. Hopefully, outlining some of these excuses and placing them side by side with actual facts will be helpful to look at.

Excuse #1– It’s Cloudy out, I don’t need to wear sunscreen.

FACT– Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the suns ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.  Overcast skies can lead to tans or nasty burns just because your not expecting it.

Excuse #2– My skin tans more than it burns, so I should be fine.

FACT– Tanning the skin is not healthy or healthier.  Tanning (outdoors or indoors) is causing permanent damage to skin.  The golden tone to your skin is a result of injury to your epidermis, which is the top layer of your skin. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerates the effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer.

Excuse #3– If I haven’t got skin cancer or Melanoma by now, I’ll probably never get it.  After all, it is a young person’s disease isn’t it?

FACT– Melanoma is the most common cancer in men over the age of 50.  That’s in front of colon, prostate, and lung cancer.  It can develop on anyone- no matter their age, sex, or race.

Excuse #4– I need to make sure I’m getting my Vitamin D

FACT-Don’t get conned by tanning salons’ talk about vitamin D and a “healthy glow.”  You can get all the vitamin D you need from a healthy diet or vitamin supplement (that won’t give you cancer).  The truth is you receive 4-7 times the amount of UV radiation needed for vitamin D production in one 20-minute tanning session. 

Excuse #5– I need a healthy glow

FACT– There’s a difference between “need” and “want”. If your that set on getting a healthy glow, spray it on.  It’s healthier.

Excuse #6– I find it cheaper to just go the tanning bed or lay out than to buy the spray on stuff…or…going to a dermatologist is just TOO expensive.

FACT– Melanoma is EXPENSIVE.  In the words of good ol’ LeVar Burton

d for it.

…and Exposure to tanning beds before the age of 30 increases a person’s risk of developing Melanoma by a whopping 75%!!! Younger people who regularly use tanning beds are 8 times more likely to develop Melanoma than people who have never used them. Occasional use of tanning beds triples their chances.  

Excuse #7– I have more freckles than I do moles and I do a good job at keeping track of my own. 

FACT– Freckles are usually found on sun-exposed areas of the body. They’re more noticeable in the summer, especially among fair-skinned people and those with light or red hair. A lot of skin cancers in the earliest stages resemble a freckle. It’s great that you keep track of your own skin but go to a dermatologist and get checked out regularly, because more than likely, you do not have a Ph.D. in dermatology.  

Excuse #8– I hate sunscreen. It’s too messy to reapply it when I’m sandy and sticky at the beach and when I sweat, the stuff just run into my eyes.

FACT– I hate it too, and I have Melanoma!! If you have to be out in the sun, the best way to protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays besides protective clothing is to put on sunscreen. But be aware that most sunscreens are NOT effective until 30 minutes after application.  The key ingredient in most sunscreens is  para-aminobenzoic acid, which protects the skin by absorbing the Ultraviolet light.  It needs time to bind to the skin to be fully effective.  But putting suncreen on does not make you bulletproof. Very often I hear people say, “Well I put sunscreen on.” But if we don’t avoid excessive sunlight, especially during peak hours of the day, the sunscreen is nothing  but a temporary barrier that soon vanishes and leaves are skin to damage itself.

Excuse #9 (Parents)-  It’s too much of an irritating inconvenience to put it on myself, let alone make sure my own kids are wearing it.  

FACT– It takes only one blistering sunburn, especially at a young age, to more than double a peson’s chance of developing Melanoma later in life. Children under the age of 6 months have very sensitive skin, and sunscreens are potentially irritating to them. They are better protected by staying out of the sun, seeking shade, avoiding peak hours of sunlight, and using protective clothing such as hats and long sleeves.

Future posts: Indoor tanning

                            My Contribution in Life…not Melanoma

In pursuit of Him,

Jason