In October 2011, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibits minors from using indoor tanning beds, which makes California the first state in the US to ban the use of tanning beds for all minors. Before this bill, minors between the ages of fifteen and eighteen could legally tan with parental permission. Supporters of the bill believe that this is a first step in the campaign to reduce the prevalence of skin cancer, the single most common type of cancer in the US. More than two million people are diagnosed each year with some form of skin cancer, making its incidence rate higher than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined.
So to what degree is skin cancer actually linked to sun and UV exposure? Like many forms of cancer, skin cancer is part genetic predisposition and part environmental trigger. In this case, environment plays a big part, as about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to exposure to UV radiation. So, it’s clearly important to protect ourselves from UV radiation, and prioritizing skin health over getting a fake tan for prom is definitely a good thing to do. Aside from skin cancer, long-term overexposure to the sun can also increase signs of aging, causing up to 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging. Someone hand me the sunscreen!
The point here that UV overexposure is detrimental to skin health, but there’s a flip side to sun exposure. Some experts argue that the sun scare has gone too far. Many older adults are showing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, associated with not only rickets but also poor calcium absorption and bone health. We usually get vitamin D from two sources: coldwater fish and UV light (meaning sun exposure without sunscreen). Since vitamin D is difficult to get from food sources, you might ask: where’s the balance? If you’re not getting an hour of unprotected sun exposure per week, consider taking a supplement, but nobody needs hours of unprotected exposure. In fact, with more information about skin cancer surging, you should definitely protect your skin!
- Congressional Report Exposes Tanning Industry’s Misleading Message to Teens from SkinCancer.org by the Skin Cancer Foundation <http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/tanningreport>
Article by Esther Slaman
Feature Image Source: 30Seconds