Teen Tanning

October 3, 2011
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A young girl sits in a doctor’s office impatiently tapping her feet on the floor. She is beautifully tan with what some would consider “the perfect skin”. She has come today to have skin removed for some testing, skin cancer testing. She does not understand how this can be happening to her; after all, she only tanned once and only after her friends convinced her that nothing bad would happen to her. Now, as she thinks back, the girl wishes she had been happy with her own skin, even if it was not “perfect”. All she can think now is that nothing is worth the way she feels right now. Teens continued irresponsible use of indoor tanning is posing serious health risks that teens could easily avoid if they had more confidence in their body images.

The main risk in using indoor tanning beds is the development of skin cancer. The overexposure to UVA and UVB rays damages and ages skin cells. Melanoma, which researchers connected to tanning, is the deadliest form of skin cancer (“Tanning”). When teens use tanning beds their risk of developing melanoma raises by 75% (Narayan). The ultraviolet radiation they produce is usually two to six times more intense than the average sunshine. For those who refuse to cut down or stop their tanning habits, the least they could do is apply lotion with antioxidant vitamins before allowing their skin to be cooked (“Tanning”). The lotion only gives minimal protection though and cannot guarantee for skin to be safe. Some people also believe that tanning is good for their skin because it supplies vitamin D. Vitamin D, however, can be supplied in other ways, for example eating the right foods. Eliminating tanning all together is the most beneficial way to keep a person’s skin safe.

Teen customers as well as tanning salon workers are being irresponsible with the use of tanning beds. In a survey, one in ten kids between ages eleven to eighteen said they use a tanning bed (Narayan). The skin of these mere children is more vulnerable for cancer to infect. In another study, only 5% of tanning beginners are exposed to radiation for the time that the FDA recommends. Not all problems have to do with protecting skin, some tanning facilities even fail to provide protective eyewear, putting their customers at an entirely different risk. Those who do not protect their eyes may end up damaging their eyes or even causing cataracts (“Tanning”). The people who run tanning salons need to be more cautious about the way they allow people to tan, especially when risks are so extreme.

Many teenagers only go to tanning salons because they are uncomfortable with their own skin. In some cases, being tan is like a part of the “uniform” whether it is for a group of friends or for a sport. Girls especially, feel as though they cannot be popular unless they are tan. Another factor that comes into play are celebrities such as Snooki who frequently use tanning beds. For most teens they are like role models, and when their skin is always somewhat tan, teens want just that (“Why Teens“). They need to realize that it does not matter what shade their skin is because in the end it is always better than having skin cancer. When will teens learn to be confident with their own body and accept that everyone is different?

The girl, who had gone for skin testing, eventually finds out the skin sample had signs of melanoma on it. They found the cancer early on though, so it had no time to spread. She was lucky this time but she can never be sure when another small blemish could be a threat to her life. After experiencing the anxiety of waiting to see if her life was in danger of coming to and end, the girl no longer cares what her skin looks like. As long as she lives she will never even step foot into a tanning salon ever again. It just is not worth the risk.





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