The Dangers of Tanning Beds

By Kaylee Pruett

Did you know that more than 1.3 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually in the United States? Melanoma is continually rising faster and faster each year, more than any other cancer, while causing around 8,000 deaths every year. What is the number one cause to this rise you wonder? UV rays! Where you live can affect your chances of skin cancer as well. If you live in a place where the UV rays are stronger you are more likely to get cancer. For example, someone who lives in Texas is more at risk than someone who lives in Minnesota. Yet tanning booths are allowing people to receive UV rays all year round in all areas.

More and more people are flocking to tanning salons for that beautiful golden tan. Although what they don’t realize is how much they are increasing their chances of getting skin cancer. Nearly 30 million people in the United States expose themselves to UV radiation in tanning beds. Many people don’t realize that UV rays can come through the clouds and windows as well as through some cotton clothing. Yet only thirty-three percent of the population wears sunscreen.

There are three different types and levels of severity of skin cancer. Each determined by the type of cell that is affected. Due to the rapid uneven dividing of cells, skin cancer creates tumors and causes damage to DNA.

The most common and least severe type of skin cancer is called Basal Cell Carcinoma. You may recognize these spots by light, pearly nodules. This type does not spread very easily and can be removed surgically or by other medical procedures.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most severe type of skin cancer, recognized by red or pink scaly papules or pustules. These can bleed easily and create open sores that do not heal. Squamous Cell Carcinoma can spread to other areas of the body.

The third and most sever type of skin cancer is called Malignant Melanoma. This can be deadly because of its ability to spread more easily to other parts of the body including internal organs. If you notice black or dark patches that are uneven in texture, rigid, or raised, this could be Malignant Melanoma. It can even be found on areas that aren’t exposed to the sun as often such as legs, feet, and toes.

Skin Cancer is Avoidable! You can wear sunscreen and be sure to get checked out by a dermatologist when you have a suspicion of a mole changing or a new formation. If detected early enough, the growth can be removed. Be sure to apply sunscreen to your children as well, because eighty percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of eighteen. Also try to avoid severe sunburns; skin cancer chances double if you’ve had five or more sunburns in your lifetime or one sever sunburn as a child. Often skin cancer will appear after the age of 50, but the earlier you start protecting yourself the less chance you have to get it.  Be aware and be prepared to protect yourself!