Opinion: The evils of tanning, and why you should give it up

If you’re someone who loves to flaunt glowing tan skin, the winter and early spring season is not for you. There’s that constant conflict between embracing the pale skin and using spe­cial tanning lotions, spray tans or tan­ning booths. Indoor tanning has be­come such a trend that people are overlooking the harm it causes.

In other words, tanning beds are unhealthy for our skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatol­ogy Association, the United States De­partment of Health and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer, exposing yourself to ultraviolet radiation from both the sun and artificial sources — such as tanning beds, sunlamps and tanning lotions — is a cancer causing habit. Statistics show there are over 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year. Of us college students, an estimated 59 percent have reported us­ing a tanning bed, with 52 percent start­ing at the age of 21.

Think a pretan is a good idea before summer starts and the actual sun starts to shine? Well, think again. The Inter­national Agency for Research on Cancer has declared that people under the age of 30 who participate in indoor tanning have a 75 percent chance of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest and most common forms of cancer.

Let me be clear — I am not saying that being tan is a bad thing. I’m some­one who has had pasty, pale skin all of their life, and I absolutely love to have a nice base tan before heading to the beach. However, there are definitely safer ways to tan rather than using in­door tanning appliances.

An excellent way to protect your skin from the sun is to find the right types of sunscreen. The American Cancer Society advises that higher SPF numbers will better protect you against ultravio­let rays that can cause cancer. Always get sunscreen with high SPF and are labeled “broad spectrum,” to protect both types of UV rays: UVB and UVA.

Another way to protect your skin is to not overexpose yourself in the sun, and to shift between sun and shade dur­ing your tanning. These alternating small doses of sun and shade can help protect your skin from sunburns.

Finally, always remember to wear sunglasses. Eyes can be just as damaged by the sun as the rest of your body, with potential harms such as contracting cataracts or eye cancer. Your eyes are just as precious as your skin — keep them safe!

Indoor tanning and the use of tan­ning booths are more harmful than they are good; and unfortunately, most col­lege students overlook the health risks. Some may be ignorant to the harmful side effects, while others are in denial. Either way, we need to start thinking of healthier ways to attain tan skin.

My challenge to the UW commu­nity this week is to educate yourself on the dangers of artificial tanning. Inform your friends and peers of the dangers of indoor tanning, and make sure to protect yourselves in the sun.

Now that you are all a little more aware of the harms of indoor tanning, when the weather gets a little nicer (whenever the Washington sun decides to give us some love), you’ll be able to safely tan in style, and enjoy the long awaited sunshine.