Two-time melanoma survivor Michel Hoard was lured into a tanning salon based on the false advertisement of a safe and healthy tan. The man at the front desk assured her there was no cause for concern since, as he explained, tanning beds contain mostly UVA rays which are better for you because they reduce your risk of skin cancer. This is one of many tricks salon companies play on their often vulnerable and perhaps uninformed customers. After four years of tanning, Hoard entered stage one melanoma.
It is true that most tanning beds emit 94 percent UVA rays and six percent UVB rays, but that does not make their effects any less harmful. The goal of tanning companies is to lure their customers into the false comfort of this “fake bake” practice. They assure their customers of their safety and that they are out of harm’s way while leading victims into the threshold of the institutionalized cancer-causing solarium. Of those diagnosed with melanoma, “the average age is 46,” explains Dr. Roger Ceilley, former president of the American Academy of Dermatology. He continues: “it’s the most common cancer in people aged 25 to 29, in women 30-35, it’s second only to breast cancer.”
While melanoma, like any form of cancer, can never be prevented 100 percent, simply avoiding certain behaviors can drastically reduce the risk. Yet according to The Melanoma Foundation, “melanoma rates are increasing faster than nearly all other cancers.” If I may, allow me to provide a useful life lesson in one short phrase: it is your present actions, the things you do now, that will determine your fate in future. Remember that bad burn from two summers ago when your short dip in the pool turned into a two hour long swim and you spent the rest of the trip looking like a lobster? Despite the fact that your memory of this experience might now be comedic, your skin does not have a sense of humor and you can bet it still remembers the burn. In fact, your skin remembers every burn you have ever had since day one. The damage is there and will remain there long after the visible indicators have faded away. But the tanning salon doesn’t burn right? It is a common misconception is that if your skin simply darkens, it somehow has not suffered any damage. Exposure to UV rays will lead to some sort of dermatological change, and it’s damaging no matter the color.
Despite the fact that bad sunbathing habits are still practiced today, the harmful effects are now better understood, and are more commonly acknowledged. Unfortunately however, tanning has become an iconic symbol of beauty, and its effects can be deadly if not practiced with caution. The modern world has commercialized this process, turning machines that increase one’s risk of cancer into money makers. The best choice that you can make is to recognize that this desired luminous glow is really just damaged skin. Tanning salons are known world-wide to be cancer causers. Don’t wait for the consequences to become evident in your own life before taking action. Stand up for your skin and protect it by staying away from tanning beds. You can have fake nails and dyed hair. But a fake bake? – get real.
Laura Wayne is a third-year student majoring in English with minors in Spanish and business and technical writing. She can be reached at LW738484@wcupa.edu.