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Why You Shouldn't Tan

by Elle Paula

The “healthy glow” you get from tanning is actually an indicator of skin damage. The tan you get from sun exposure is your skin’s attempt to protect itself by producing more melanin -- the pigment responsible for the darker color associated with a tan. Over time, this damage can have some serious consequences that may not be worth the tan. The damage from the sun is caused by the UV radiation emitted from its rays.

Say No to Skin Cancer

Perhaps the most well-known adverse effect of tanning is an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Although UV radiation from the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer, indoor tanning is especially dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who begin indoor tanning once a month before the age of 35 have a 75 percent increased risk of melanoma -- the deadliest type of skin cancer. They are also 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma and 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma -- the two most common forms of skin cancer.

You're Making Me Sick

Tanning can make you physically sick. Overexposure to UVB radiation may suppress your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to sickness and infection, and diminish your skin’s natural defenses, making you more sensitive to the effects of the sun. Excessive UV exposure can also cause reactions to medications and reduce the effectiveness of immunizations.

Does This Sun Make Me Look Old?

UV radiation causes photoaging, which is premature skin aging that produces structural changes in the skin. Photoaging is responsible for fine lines, deep wrinkles, sagging skin, blotchiness and a leather-like texture. According to Philippe Humbert, MD, head of the Department of Dermatology at the University Hospital of Besançon in France, consistent overexposure to UVA radiation accelerates the rate of skin aging by 5 to 7 years. This damage is often irreversible.

Protect Your Eyes

UVA and UVB radiation can cause short- and long-term damage to the eyes. Exposure to excessive amounts of UV radiation in a short period of time can lead to photokeratitis, or “sunburn of the eye" -- a condition characterized by red eyes, gritty feeling in the eyes, sensitivity to light and tearing. Photokeratitis is temporary. Long-term exposure to UV radiation may cause permanent damage to the retina and increase your chances of developing cataracts, which can lead to decreased vision or blindness. Other eye damage associated with excessive UV exposure includes macular degeneration, cancer around the eyes, and irregular tissue growth that can reduce vision. If you do tan, protect your eyes by wearing UV-protection sunglasses or goggles specifically designed for indoor tanning.

About the Author

Elle Paula has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.

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