Student Voice


September 26, 2023


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Examining dangers of sun damage

April 11, 2014

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports 69 percent of early basal cell cancers are associated with tanning beds. The foundation also cautions a 75 percent increased risk if tanning beds are used before age 35.

Spring and summer are coming and now is the time to educate and prepare for the dangers of exposure to UV rays from natural or artificial tanning. UV radiation is only a small part of the sun’s rays but is harmful to humans. The Skin Cancer Foundation and The American Cancer Society agree, sun damage will age skin without skin cancer being present. David Nelson, a dermatologist in Hudson, said, “Sun protection is one of the easiest ways of preventing age related skin changes.” UV radiation from the sun is a proven carcinogen, doing damage to the skin. Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer. Any sun exposure gives off a dose of UV radiation according to Nelson.

The Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institute of Health all agree on a few basic dangers of sun exposure:

  • Sun damage is accumulative.
  • Once you have exposure to UV rays the damage starts.
  • It is important while you are young to protect your skin every day because damaged skin will become loose, saggy, and wrinkly as you age.
  • Sun damage can occur from natural sun or UV rays at the tanning salon. Tanning beds, booths, and tanning lights of any kind, give off even stronger UV radiation than the sun itself.

The American Cancer Society reports basal cell skin cancer, the most common type of skin cancer, is treatable if caught early. All types of skin cancer from basal cell, squamous, melanoma and other varieties can be fatal without treatment. As many as 170,000 cases of non-melanoma cancers are attributed to tanning beds. Also, The Skin Cancer Foundation attributes 90 percent of visible signs of aging to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds.

Drew Reese, manager at Sunrise Tanning in River Falls, said he believes people could tan responsibly. He likens himself to a bartender. It is his duty to cut off service to those people that go overboard with tanning. Reese admits sun damage occurs to some degree anytime you tan. He recommends, “Moderation is the key for everything in life.” Reese went on to say tanning is good because it provides vitamin D, helps skin conditions, and combats depression.

Nelson disagrees. He stated the benefits of tanning are minimal and people can receive any health benefits in healthier ways. A Seasonal Affective Disorder narrow spectrum light can give enough Vitamin D to help alleviate depression without UV rays, and tanning does not significantly help skin conditions according to Nelson. Concerning the concept of tanning he said, “Goth looks good, I wish it was still popular.”

Gregory Goblirsch, a physician at River Falls clinic said in a prepared statement, “If you do not want to have old looking skin in your thirties and forties, protect your skin from the sun and avoid tanning beds now. Indoor tanning increases the risk of melanomas and other skin cancers and it is not protection for the adverse rays of the sun.”

In the FAQ section on the Indoor Tanning Association’s website the question of UV rays is addressed, “Since the mid-1980s, there has been considerable public health concern and attention focused on the risks of overexposure to ultraviolet light. The indoor tanning industry shares this concern. However, in the course of this public debate, we believe that the risks associated with UV light have been overstated and the benefits ignored.” The Indoor Tanning Association goes on to say the science will catch up and prove the physical and emotional benefits of moderate tanning.

The National Institute of Health released a 1995 study of 1,307 teens from 13 to 15 years old. This study found 40 to 70 percent of them had detectable skin damage. The American Cancer Society recommends: slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and delicate skin around them All sources agreed light skinned, fair people are at higher risk for sun damage and skin cancers. Other risk factors include family history, an abundance of moles and freckles, residing in a high altitude, autoimmune diseases, certain medications and organ transplant patients.

The Indoor Tanning Association states they do not agree with the current science about the serious nature of UV skin damage and will wait until there is more study. The medical community warns of the dangers and suggests anyone going outdoors should have a 15 to a 30 SPF, sun protection factor, with water proof broad spectrum protection, reapplied often. A common skin cancer saying in the medical community is: slip, slop, slap and wrap.