By Victoria ShielerAs summer approaches, many students will be anticipating their summer vacations. Whether it’s visiting family, sightseeing a new city, or relaxing by the beach, odds are they will be spending some time under the sun.
But if students don’t use enough sunscreen, they are putting themselves at risk for developing a deadly skin cancer, known as melanoma.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Melanoma has risen for the amount of people aged from 18 to 39 over the past 40 years and the rates grew by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men.”
One reason for the increase is that the desire to tan, has become popular among young adults and teens who want that summer glow.
Although lying by the pool or beach is relaxing, many think that tanning the conventional way takes too long, so they seek other ways to get that quick summer bronze by going to tanning facilities.
Tanning beds produce an ultraviolet (UV) light that emits UV radiation that causes the skin to tan, experts say.
According to Dr. Jody Levine, a dermatologist in New York City, “Nearly 30 million people tan indoors in the U.S. every year. Two to three million of them are teens.”
Tanning beds have become very popular due to their easy access and availability. For some, tanning is also addictive, to the point where they go every day.
But experts say that tanning beds are one of the most harmful things one can do to his or her body.
“Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states “people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma and also increase the risk of wrinkles and eye damage, and changes skin texture.”
“I always had a desire to get darker,” said a sales associate who preferred to be known only as “Katrina.” “I would tan every day for at least 45 minutes. It got to the point where my friends and family would try to talk me out of tanning since I was so dark.”
Eventually though, things changed for her when she noticed a small black spot on her right shoulder and went to the doctor, she said. It turned out it was an early stage of melanoma. Luckily, the spot was removed and she has been clear ever since and from that point she stopped tanning.
Like Katrina, some sun enthusiasts are now leaning toward safe and effective ways to gain a summer tan.
According to The University of Iowa, a method called “quick tanning”, is becoming more popular by temporarily darkening the surface of the skin in a way that can simulate the appearance of a true tan. These quick-tanning products do not injure the skin the way UV rays do.
Teens and young adults use a spray tan or a tanning lotion to create a bronzed glow without the exposure of the sun.
A popular product among teens and young adults is Jergens Natural Glow Self-Tanner, is known to gradually make your skin darker and can be found at local drugstores and super markets.
Those who love the sun and want to avoid skin damage, proper sunscreen is essential, dermatologists say.
Yet, many are still unsure about how often they should apply it or what SPF means.
“SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned,” said Dr. Steven Chang MD, a diplomat at The American Board of Family Medicine, in an article on WebMD’s website. “For example, an SPF of 15 would allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could without protection.”
People with a fairer complexion, and who are prone to burning easily, should be wearing at least a 30 SPF, but experts say even those who are darker skinned shouldn’t wear lighter SPF’s.
“Wearing the proper sunscreen is key to protect your skin from harmful UV rays,” said Dr. Debra Jih M.D. who serves as a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Many people forget to reapply their sunscreen which lowers their protection throughout the day.”
It is also important that sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, she added. It should be immediately reapplied after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal.
Experts also recommend choosing a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen which protects against UVB and UVA radiation.
“Everyone should be wearing at least a 30 SPF in days of long exposure,” reports The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website. “The lower the SPF, the lower the amount of protection it has.”