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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Toxic tanning

    Tucson’s heating up. The pool at the Student Recreation Center is surrounded by coeds sunning themselves, the five people who bothered putting away their flip-flops for the winter have broken them out again and pale girls like me are feeling awkward about the prospect of showing off our ghostly skin tones. Yes, it’s the perfect time for some tanning advice. Here’s mine: Just don’t do it.

    Tanning is one of the last vestiges of totally reckless behavior that we’re not inundated with messages about quitting. We’ve all heard that smoking is a “”smelly, puking habit”” and that drug use is bound to make your brain as fried as an egg ad infinitum. But getting a tan is still associated with a healthy outdoor lifestyle.

    With 281 sunny days per year in Tucson and 17 tanning salons within five miles of campus as well as numerous student apartment complexes that list tanning beds among their amenities, it’s hard to resist the temptation to get that sun-kissed glow. But whether you’re doing it in a tanning bed or under the sun, it would be in your best interest to kick the habit. I don’t mean to sound sensational, but tanning is just plain dangerous. This year 10,600 people will die from skin cancer in America – and Arizona has one of the most elevated rates of skin cancer in the world.

    Lee Cranmer, a melanoma doctor at the Arizona Cancer Center of the University of Arizona, explained that tanning is your body’s way of indicating skin damage.

    He told me there are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The carcinomas can cause serious disfigurement, and melanoma can be deadly. Evidence these cancers are caused by UV exposure is overwhelming.

    Tanning salons are quick to point out UV rays you’re exposed to in their beds are UVA rays, as opposed to the UVB rays you’d get from natural sun exposure. However, Cranmer explained that “”basically, it’s all ultraviolet radiation.”” The idea that “”certain types of ultraviolet light are safer than others isn’t anywhere near being close to being proven.””

    In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, women who use a tanning bed more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who don’t. Yikes.

    Tanning can also cause major cosmetic damage. Today’s golden glow will be tomorrow’s wrinkles. UV light hurts your skin, and you can’t hide damage forever.

    So, tanning is dangerous and might destroy your skin down the road. What are you supposed to do if you still want a darker look? According to Cranmer, over the past few years “”the quality of spray-on and ‘tan-in-a-can’ preparations has improved significantly.””

    I’ve feared fake tans since seventh grade, when a classmate turned herself absolutely orange. I always planned on staying away. But I didn’t want to recommend anything I haven’t tried myself. So I read a few articles about spray-on tanning online, and then headed to a salon to get it done. Never let it be said of me that I was unwilling to risk turning my entire body orange (on the day of a job interview, no less!) in pursuit of journalistic excellence.

    It was my first time in a tanning salon. After signing a long form attesting to my knowledge about the

    dangers of UV tanning, I followed the helpful and very bronzed employee back to the mist-on (and non-UV) booth. A poster next to the door commanded: “”Get sexy. Be envied.”” “”Ok,”” I thought. “”I’ll try.””

    The actual tanning experience was a little awkward. I had to strip down naked and obey commands issued in a perky but robotic voice by the tanning machine. I got sprayed front and back by the tanning solutions (which both Cranmer and the Internet had assured me were nontoxic) and, after five fairly painless minutes, the experience was over. The girl at the front counter assured me that I looked “”golden”” on my way out, and I think I agree.

    The only major negative result of my adventure in spray-on tanning is that I managed to dye the bottoms of my feet blackish-brown. It looks like I walked in tar. When the employee told me to put some “”protective cream”” on my feet, I guess I had viewed it more of a suggestion than an order. But next time, I’ll know. And I’d rather deal with gross feet right now than cancer later – wouldn’t you?


    Lori Foley is a senior majoring in international studies and English literature. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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