Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Slip, Slop, Slappin’ Your Sun Tan

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

  As long as a tan is considered cool, the risk of contracting skin cancer will continue.
  More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. Malignant melanoma, which is easily preventable by wearing sun-protective clothing, using sun screen and seeking shade, will kill some 7,500 Americans this year. While melanoma accounts for only 5  percent of skin cancer cases, it causes 80 percent of skin-cancer deaths.
  Social acceptance — indeed, favor — of tanning is at fault, said Dr. Martin Weinstock, chairman of the American Cancer Society’s skin-cancer advisory group. More than half the population believes people look better with a tan.
  “A hundred years ago it was a very unfashionable thing,” Weinstock said. “It signified that you were the type of person who had to work for a living, usually out in the field under the sun. People who owned farms and big plantations could spend the day inside.” Industrialization changed all that, as workers moved inside large manufacturing plants and the wealthy began lolling along tropical beaches. So tans became a fashionable sign of leisure.
  That image must be changed and Weinstock thinks there are signs of a pendulum swing. A tan is evidence that your skin has been damaged and this damage accumulates with each tan. “Unfortunately, a lot of people simply do not use sun screen correctly. One of the findings in a survey we did was that a lot of people, when they got the worst sunburn of the summer, were using a sun screen of SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or greater. If someone goes to the beach, plays a couple of games of volleyball and then says, ‘My skin is turning red, I’d better put on some sun screen,’ well, obviously that’s too late. Most of the damage has already been done.”
  Added problems are that too little sun screen is used or it may be washed off by sweat or swimming. An SPF of 30 or greater is Weinstock’s recommendation. He also emphasizes that “it’s not the tan that’s the problem; it’s the ultraviolet radiation used to get a tan. ” What causes the problem is the ultraviolet radiation from the sun that triggers a reaction in pigment-producing skin cells to produce a browner color in the skin. This same radiation “causes damage in the DNA of skin cells as well as other types of damage to the skin, and that is what has been related to the risk of skin cancer” as well as premature aging of the skin.
  There are two reasons tanning salons are not safe, even though they may advertise that they use innocuous UVA radiation and not the UVB that causes sunburn. First of all, UVA is not totally harmless. Secondly, most tanning booths give users some UVB also.
  If you use an artificial tanner – tan in a bottle – it probably will give you a tan in color only. “They don’t protect you against sun exposure,” he said. ” They don’t protect against ultraviolet light.”
  “We have a slogan at the American Cancer Society. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap:’ slip on a shirt, slop on sun screen, slap on a hat. “

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 1, 2012 at 12:28 am

Posted in Health

Tagged with , , , ,

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