OFFBEAT: Pasty people: Can trendy TV vampires help fight skin cancer?

By CORY FROLIK Former Huron County reporter, Sandusky Register Except for Stephenie Meyer, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the "Twilight" phenomena has benefited no one more than it has pale people like me. Once the first film based on Meyer's uberpopular nove
Commentary
May 23, 2010

By CORY FROLIK

Former Huron County reporter, Sandusky Register

Except for Stephenie Meyer, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the "Twilight" phenomena has benefited no one more than it has pale people like me.

Once the first film based on Meyer's uberpopular novels about angsty teenage vampires hit theaters, people begin looking at a paleness in a new and more flattering light.

I noticed the shift in public opinion right away.

Friends, associates, cashiers and coffee shop baristas stopped asking questions when I wore shorts like, "What's up pasty, did you just see a ghost?" and "Oh my dear God, do you ever go out in the sun?"

Instead, they told me they thought I looked like a vampire, which was kind of "cool."

Justin Timberlake might have brought sexy back, but Hollywood and Meyer have brought pale's sexiness back.

The look was overdue for a resurgence.

I've always argued staying out of the sun and wearing thick layers of sunscreen was a smart move, but no one listened.

It took America's unquenchable hunger for the toothy creatures of the night for my pastiness to become hip.

I'm glad it did.

After all, the flip side is tanning, which can be hazardous to the health.

A study recently published in the Archives of Dermatology found that about one-third of the study's participants who visited indoor tanning facilities exhibited signs of addictive behavior.

This was no anomaly.

Other studies have found that people who tan regularly often have feelings of withdrawal if they do not get their usual dose of sunbathing.

Teresa Ghazoul, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery and medical staff member for Fisher-Titus Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, said soaking up the sun releases endorphins in the brain, which is the same physiological response that results from drug use and extreme sports.

"It seems that the people who come in with the heavy, heavy sun damage find it's harder to stop tanning than it is for them to stop smoking," Ghazoul said.

Ghazoul said she's treated many people who continue to tan, even though they have developed skin cancer.

The irony is that most people who tan do so in the hopes of increasing their beauty.

Over time, however, the overexposure to ultraviolet rays leads to wrinkling, premature aging and cancer, none of which are particularly attractive.

Tons of people tan.

According to industry estimates, about 30 million people each year visit indoor tanning salons at least once.

In this region, there are dozens of businesses that offer such services, which might explain why Ghazoul said she sees more people in northern Ohio with sun-damaged skin than she did when she worked in the far sunnier states of California and Arizona.

Ghazoul figures people in Ohio are less educated about the risks sunlight poses and generally have more sensitive skin than people out west.

She said the melanoma rate among young woman has tripled in the last 30 years, a trend she attributes to the rise in popularity of the surfer chick look.

Millions of sunburns can be blamed on bands like the Beach Boys and movies like "Endless Summer."

The truth is the earlier people try out artificial light, the greater the chance they will develop skin cancer at some point in their life, Ghazoul said.

"Individuals who have their first exposure to a tanning bed in their youth increase their melanoma risk by 75 percent," Ghazoul said.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma is the most common form of cancer among people 25 to 29 and the second most common type of cancer among people 15 to 29.

"What used to be a disease mostly seen in older men is ballooning in young women -- the very target audience and No. 1 customer of the indoor tanning industry," said William James, the academy's president.

The academy is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify indoor tanning devices to prevent minors from using them.

It also is asking the FDA to require tanning salons to educate their customers about the health risks before allowing them to use the beds.

I'm not outright opposed to tanning beds.

A little light exposure here and there can certainly look good.

But dermatologists say people should not be allowed to use indoor tanning salons until they are 18, when they are legally old enough to make other risky decisions like smoking cigarettes and voting movie stars into office.

Until then, spray-on tans could definitely suffice.

All of this explains why I'm excitedto see that pale is making a major comeback.

Au naturel is in.

Someone should alert the blogosphere.