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.
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:
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 2009, as 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,
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!