To tan or not to tan; is that even a question?

If there’s anything Slip! Slop! Slap! has taught us, it’s if you don’t want to get skin cancer, you need to protect yourself against the sun. But what the Victorian Council’s message didn’t teach us, was that it’s not only the sun which can give us skin cancer. Tanning beds contribute to an astronomically high 2 in 3 Australians developing skin cancer before 70.

The risks associated with tanning beds have always been a muddy subject with misinformation getting flung around. Whether or not you can develop skin cancer (you can), if it’s a safe way to get vitamin D (it’s not), whether or not base tans will protect you (they won’t), etcetera etcetera.

And it looks like there’s another lesser known, very important risk to add to the list.

A study published last year has revealed that even when you leave the death tanning bed, you can still develop melanoma skin cancer within the next three hours.

Skin Cancer 101

But before we tackle the valuable implications of the study, let’s look at how skin cancer develops in the first place.

Tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) light to bronze your body. UV light damages your DNA, creating cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs), mutations which can create tumours if your body doesn’t repair them immediately.

The type of skin cancer you develop depends on which type of cell was damaged. Melanoma (an incredibly deadly cancer) develops from damaged melanocytes, the cells which produce melanin (a pigment which darkens / browns your skin).

And yet people will still go and burn themselves. And for what? The sake of beauty? Acceptance? To prove something? Is this truly the world we live in?

Ain’t no party like a chemotherapy party

What a touching family scene.

What a touching father-daughter moment.

The study tells us that for more than three hours after one picosecond of UV exposure, the risk of melanoma lingers.

Melanin protects against cancer by absorbing UV light before it can create CPDs. But this absorption can create by-products that have the same energy as UV light, so even after you get out of the tanning bed, these melanin by-products can continue to create “dark CPDs”, and attack your DNA. For. Three. Whole. Hours.

You’ll spend up to twelve minutes in the tanning bed.

Twelve. (12)

Minutes. (very short units of time)

Even ignoring the extra three hours of risk for no reward, melanoma is typically a rare cancer (a demented trade-off for its lethality), but using a tanning bed increases the risk by 74%.

So how can it be acceptable our beloved are allowed to put themselves at risk of horrible, life-diminishing diseases because they want to look bronzed? A disease that no one would willingly inflict upon themselves, except they do by getting on that tanning death bed.

A disease that has afflicted millions who stand inspirationally tall, but still suffer in anguish, only wanting another chance at life.

Simply put, the risk does NOT, and never WILL outweigh the… “reward.”

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