Don’t determine your legend by overdoing the tan

Have you ever heard this urban legend? A young bride-to-be decides she wants to be tan for her wedding day, but only has one day bef
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Have you ever heard this urban legend? A young bride-to-be decides she wants to be tan for her wedding day, but only has one day before she says “I do.”

She goes to every tanning salon in town to make sure her skin is golden brown. After coming home that night the young bride realizes something is wrong — and dies.

The cause of death is that her organs were cooked; she was literally fried like a chicken.

If you haven’t heard this story before, I’m not crazy. It appeared in a magazine, which many young teens, read. But if this story was meant to scare teens to stop tanning, it didn’t work. According to a Medi-Smart article, which polled 10,000 teens ages 12-18, 10 percent of them went to tanning salons, more than half of them young women.

To understand tanning you need to understand exactly what you are doing to your body. You become tan after being exposed to certain amounts of UVA and UVB light. Being exposed causes our skin pigment, which is called melanin, to darken, causing the tan color (or in some unfortunate cases, the orange color).

UVB waves have more energy then UVA waves, which cause them to be more damaging to the skin. This is why the tanning industries say tanning beds are safer than natural sunlight because most tanning beds use 95 percent UVA radiation and only 5 percent UVB.

When exposed to this radiation for long periods of time, or habitually, risks include eye damage, immune system changes, wrinkles and premature aging of the skin. More serious damages include skin cancer.

The most common and dangerous type is melanoma. Certain types of people are more at risk to develop this cancer than others, including those with fair skin, blond or light brown hair; those who burn easily; and others who spend large amounts of time outside, but do not tan. Although there are many risks, the solution is simple: stop tanning.

Other safe ways to get a glow, include sunless tanning products, such as spray or lotion, although they may wear off or leave you with unwanted streaks. They don’t, however, leave you with cancer. They work by temporarily dying the top layer of your skin. The color wears off as your skin wears off. At worst, sunless tanners may cause allergic reactions.

Surprisingly, there are some benefits to tanning. We get close to 95 percent of our vitamin D, along with other vitamins, through sunlight. Some studies show that having healthy vitamin D levels may lead to a lesser chance of developing ovarian and colon cancers. Tanning for some people boosts confidence because they feel more beautiful and fit. While this doesn’t make much sense to me, it seems that today’s society pushes tan skin as being an asset.

With prom just around the corner, I suspect that the tanning salons might just be getting busier. While the facts are out there, many young teens are naive and believe they won’t get cancer. Even if they don’t get cancer, tanning leads to wrinkles and premature aging of the skin.

I don’t need to make decisions about tanning. I am just one of the unlucky people who burns like a lobster and then returns to a sheet white color so there isn’t a reason for me to hop into a tanning bed or bathe in the sun.

I know tanning is a personal decision, but it’s a dangerous one as our legendary bride found out. Please think before you tan.