Thursday, February 04, 2010

another health story

To continue with this week's health theme (I guess) I was reading about tanning this week. There has been ongoing pressure to prohibit the use of tanning beds for people under 18 years of age due to the link between tanning and skin cancer. Right now, if you live in New Brunswick and you are under 18, you can't use a tanning bed, but there aren't any rules in the rest of Canada (although I think some tanning places ask that your parents sign something if you are younger).

More recently, younger people are being urged not to tan. Apparently, the use of tanning beds (and other tanning "devices") before the age of 30 is associated with a 75% increase in the occurrence of skin cancer. 75%! That's a lot... Obviously, tanning at any age is associated with skin damage such as spots, wrinkles and cancer, but I think it is important for younger people to realize that they aren't invincible and that their actions can have huge consequences in the future.

I've been tanning just a few times. I can't remember when I went for the first time, but I went with my sister and I went to get a little colour. I don't even really know why. I remember really liking the warmth of the tanning bed, being a little skeeved at what might be on the surfaces, and kind of weirded out by the skin colour of the employees.  The second stint I had tanning was right before my wedding. We got married in February and I wanted my skin colour to be a little less translucent than it usually is in the cold Canadian winter.

I was tanning because I thought I "looked better with a tan". And you know what- I still kind of think that. A little sun damage evens out my skin tone, makes me glow a little (although that is probably just because I'm happier when I get to be outside in the sun), and I like the way colours look on me more. Even though I think that, I really do try to protect myself as much as possible from the sun and I have vowed never to set foot (or skin) in a tanning bed again. Even though the president of Fabutan insists that the correlation between tanning and skin cancer does not imply causation (and he's right, statistically a correlation and a causation are very different) it is a risk I'm just not willing to take. Just to get cheeky with his example- he says that drowning is correlated with swimming, but obviously swimming doesn't cause drowning. In the case of tanning- I figure if I don't get in the water, I won't drown.

What do you think? Do you use tanning beds? Do you think look better with a tan? Do you take measures to try to protect your skin?


kris said...

I went tanning before the cruise so I wouldn't burn in the sun. 100 minutes in total.

They had TVs there playing slide shows with statements about how good tanning is because of the vitamin D you get; I tanning session = 100 glasses of milk (how long's a session?); BEWARE OF SUN SCARE; the sunscreen industry is funding the sun scare campaign, etc.

google sun scare or check out:

And yes, I know this is culturally conditioned, but I still think most of us white people look better with a little sun.

kris said...

ps - that wasn't meant as an endorsement for tanning, I just found their propaganda amusing.

Runner Leana said...

I'm pretty fair and I think I am just as likely to burn with a tan or without. I wear a super high SPF in the summer time and still come away with tan lines from my cycling shorts. While that almost feels like a badge of honour I'm definitely not for tanning beds. Given the number of bad suburns I had as a kid I'm probably at a higher risk for skin cancer as it is, so why up the risk?

I had a coworker who tanned ALL THE TIME. When she got pregnant she had to stop tanning and she actually looked really good. As soon as she had the baby it was back to the tanning beds. Here she was, mid 30s, with the most wrinkled, age spotted chest I've seen on a woman that age. It didn't look good in my opinion.

To each their own though!

Michelle M said... you can imagine, I'm in full support of NB's decision about restricting tanning bed use. Lobbying for the ban for under 18s was one of things we did at the Canadian Cancer Society (many of the jurisdictional divisions) and the gov't of NB is a leader!

In terms of info - the WHO has very complete and reliable information on tanning beds and it's based on research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - the organization that basically decides if something is a carcinogen and the leading source for information about cancer! They have tanning beds in their highest cancer risk category: carcinogenic to humans.

Seems like a no-brainer to me! Ok, I'll get off my soap box now! :)

lu said...

i think tanning is a bit silly because it seems that anytime anyone does it enough to get any colour (i have never managed to get a 'tan' through tanning beds), it looks artificial.

but i do think that most people look healthier and happier with a little colour and a glow. but i wear sunscreen pretty obsessively when i am in the sun (although i wasn't so good about it when i lived at the equator...) because i am so afraid of getting a painful sunburn and i like my moles just the way they are!

having said that, i would be entirely supportive of a ban on tanning beds for those under 18. sure, it might not be a statistical causation, but it would be pretty ridiculous to ignore the correlation.

S said...

I have never been tanning. I don't naturally tan much, anyway. I just burn, which fades in two days back to my pale, pale skin. The only sun that is ever noticeable on me is my semi-permanent teva tan. There's really no hope for my skin tone, so I don't bother. I sometimes use suntanning moisturizer, but that's about it.

Back in junior high and high school, I used to get teased a lot by the mean girls who did tan. (No, I was not wearing white tights!) I'm not gonna lie: I was pretty pleased at our 10 year reunion to see that I already looked younger and fresher than the girls who tanned all the time and harassed me because I didn't. I'm really not a vindictive person; those girls were just that mean.

lu said...

man, why do some young girls feel the need to be SO mean?! teasing someone for being pale is ridiculous.

k said...

I love the propaganda Kris. I think the world needs more blatant propaganda...or maybe not.

The super-tanned people just frighten me...they cease to look human I think. At least she stopped while she was pregnant?

Michelle- I agree. If the WHO has deemed tanning beds to be carcinogenic, I'm not sure I have any place arguing they aren't. Although they also tried to convince us that the H1N1 vaccine was good for us too right ;-)
(for those of you who don't know me- I'm definitely kidding, I got the shot)

lu- I always think that real sun colour looks a lot different than the tanning bed colour on most people. And I agree- I like the look of my skin when it has a little sun, but I try my best to sunscreen it up.

S- what is WRONG with girls? why are we such bitches? I swear there is some sort of strange thing that happens to girls when they travel in packs...

Retta said...

I have tanned before - in my early 20s. I take precautions now - sunblock every day!