Pale is Hot – Cancer’s Not! May is National Skin Cancer Month

Public Health Image Library

Public Health Image Library

Public Health Image Library

In news you can use, the World Health Organization announced that tanning beds definitely cause cancer. Until now, discussions about the cancer causing effects of ultraviolet radiation (either from the sun or from tanning beds) always involved wishy-washy modifiers like probably.   No more! Tanning beds have now officially joined the ranks of other goodies like asbestos, tobacco, coal tar, mustard gas, and (for all you chemistry majors out there) the ever popular N,N-Bis(2-chloroethyl)-2-naphthylamine.

The incidence of melanoma – the worst kind of skin cancer – from ultraviolet light exposure has increased dramatically over the last three decades, particularly in young women.  We aren’t talking about a few isolated cases here, either. According to the American Cancer Society, there were 62,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States in the last year alone, and 8,000 people died from it!  Researchers believe that excessive exposure to UV radiation before the age of 30 is a very significant risk factor for developing melanoma.

The tanning bed industry has long maintained that their beds were safe because they mostly emit the “safe” UVA form of ultraviolet light.  Turns out that in their rush to get you (and your wallets) on their tanning beds, they might have been a little… overly optimistic.  UVA, UVB, and UVC all cause cancer, no matter where it comes from.

The moral of this story, young Buckeyes, is that the healthy glow of a tan is not healthy at all.  This summer, make like an extra from the set of Dark Shadows and go for pale!  Pale is best – put your sunscreen to the test!

Vicki Rentel, MD (Student Health Services Alum)

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