Leanna Harris ‘18- Every year, as spring break approaches, high schools students head to the tanning beds. Especially as Michiganders, pasty white skin tends to be a shock compared to the skin of those living in Florida, Mexico, and the rest of the sunny spring break destinations. Hopping in the tanning bed for a few weeks before Spring Break isn’t as beneficial as everyone makes it seem.
Many students choose to tan or a few different reasons. Whether you’re hoping to gain a little color or to prevent sunburn, the negative effects of indoor tanning far outweigh the tan glow.
“I tan so I don’t get burnt in Mexico and can get away with not wearing sunscreen,” Noah McNulty ‘17 said.
While many students back up McNulty’s point, tanning indoors before a trip holds no evidence in preventing sunburn.
Actually, the opposite is true. According to www.mayoclinic.org, “There’s little evidence to support the idea that a base tan protects you against sunburn. A few sessions of indoor tanning will not prevent you from burning in the sun.” After tanning indoors and then exposing your skin to the blazing sun for a week, you increase your chances of seeing the effect of the sun’s UV rays.
“Repeated exposure to UV radiation — whether from the sun or a tanning bed — increases your risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer,” according to www.mayoclinic.org.
Another common misconception is the idea of a base tan. Many people think that having a little bit of color before heading into the sun lowers their chances of burning. Mayo Clinic also mentions that “a base tan is no substitute for good sun protection.” However, students continue to fall into the tanning trap.
“I tan so I can get a base tan before spring break,” Morgan Mueller ‘18 said.
Mueller is not alone however, according to www.greatist.com, 35% of adults and 59% of university students have been indoor tanning. This means that 35% of adults and 59% of students are at an increased risk of obtaining skin cancer, losing elasticity, adding fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots to their skin.
According to www.skincancer.org, the “cumulative damage caused by UV radiation leaves you at an increased risk for premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), as well as skin cancer.”
“No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging, as well as skin cancer. In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent,” according to skincancer.org.
Those affected by skin cancer speak out about their story on www.thebedisdead.org. While all of the stories are of equal importance, one stands out to high schoolers in specific. Jacie Kuykendall started tanning at age 14, her main goal: get as dark as possible while working a lifeguard job.
“It was fun to have beautiful, tan skin,” Kuykendall said. “I toned it down in the winter, but absolutely hated having pale skin, so I would occasionally tan. In the spring, I was at the tanning salon 4-5 days a week getting ready for summer.”
Kuykendall’s habits sound similar to those of high school students preparing for spring break. However, the long term effects caught up to her. After several years of tanning and sun exposure, skin cancer touched her family. Her dad had a very large chunk of melanoma taken out of his back. The idea made her skin crawl enough for Jacie to turn away from the beds, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
“About a year after my dad was diagnosed, I got my diagnosis at age 23,” Kuykendall said. “I had a stage I melanoma on my forehead, right above my eyebrow.”
Another thing that many people don’t realize is the cosmetic toll that skin cancer takes on your body. For Jacie, a large area of skin on her face had to be removed. That means a scar that most likely won’t ever completely heal.
“When the plastic surgeon showed me how much skin he would have to take off with the mole, I was terrified,” Kuykendall said. “It was about the size of a 50-cent piece. When I saw the scar for the first time after surgery, I nearly passed out. Although I was so worried about the cosmetic effects of my melanoma removal, I was fortunate enough to have found it before it spread and got worse.”
Kuykendall now advocates for sun safety and is working on opening a spray tan business in order to keep the harmful rays of tanning beds away from as many people as possible. Romeo High Schools’ favorite substitute teacher, Mrs. Columbo, also advocates for sun safety.
“If you’re worried about how you’re going to look in your 50’s and 60’s, start being preventative in the sun now,” Columbo said.
As great as tan skin for spring break sounds, are the long term drawbacks really worth it?