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How Tanning Beds Nearly Killed Me

When I was a teenager I did some stupid things, but looking back I think that the worst decision I made was to go to a tanning salon. At the time I remember tanning salon staff assuring me that it was “safer than the real sun” and the fastest way to get a healthy-looking glow. “You could bake in the sun all day, or spend 20 minutes in a tanning bed for the same effect” said the staff. So after trying several sunless tanners in varying shades of orange and having them slough off like patches of dirt, I decided to make my alabaster skin a nice, even shade of light caramel with months of tanning each year.

Fast forward twenty some-odd years and I’m in the surgeon’s office having a wide-margin re-excision of a melanoma on my back. I’d been wearing sunscreen since my early twenties, carefully protecting myself from UV radiation. I had realized the error of my ways after a serious conversation with a dermatologist, but I had “gotten religion” about skin protection too late. My fate was already set from the tanning bed exposure.

A new study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) estimates that tanning beds may be responsible for hundreds of thousands of non-melanoma skin cancers per year in the United States. As for melanoma (the deadliest kind of skin cancer), the World Health Organization has determined that the risk of melanoma is increased by 75% when the use of tanning devices starts before age 30. In fact, they classify tanning bed exposure as a “group 1 carcinogen” – in the same class of human toxicity as asbestos, tobacco, and mustard gas.

I was surprised to learn how common tanning bed use is, especially in Europe. According to the BMJ study, 10.6-35% of people in Germany, France, Denmark, and Sweden have used a tanning bed at some point in their lifetimes. The global nature of this problem is daunting – and with research suggesting that tanning has addictive properties, it may be as difficult to get people to avoid tanning salons as it is to have them quit smoking.

As for me, I learned my lesson and I have the scars to prove it. I was lucky that a dermatologist caught my melanoma before it spread, but now I need to be on the look-out for more of them and redouble my efforts to stay out of the sun. If you’ve ever used a tanning bed and have fair skin and freckles, you should probably keep your dermatologist on speed dial. That temporary “sun-kissed glow” can easily turn into wrinkles and Frankenstein scars in the not too distant future – along with a potentially fatal cancer diagnosis. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

Skin Cancer Risk, Indoor Tanning, And Maternal Influence

teen tanning bedNot all maternal influence on daughter behavior is good. Take for example the influence of the unhealthy use of indoor tanning beds as presented in a recent Archives of Dermatology article (full reference below) which “investigated whether indoor tanning with one’s mother the first time would influence frequency of tanning later in life and whether it was associated with age of initiation.”

Joel Hillhouse, Ph.D., of East Tennessee State University-Johnson City and colleagues published a study the May 2010 issue of the Archives of Dermatology which looked at which health-based intervention worked best in reducing skin cancer risks. They found that “emphasizing the appearance-damaging effects of UV light, both indoor and outdoor, to young patients who are tanning is important no matter what their pathological tanning behavior status.”

For this study, Hillhouse and colleagues randomly selected a total of 800 female students who were then sent a screening questionnaire on their indoor tanning history. Those who reported ever indoor tanning (n = 252) were invited to participate in the study and offered an incentive ($5). A total of 227 (mean age, 21.33 years; age range, 18-30 years) agreed, signed informed consent documents, and completed assessments.

One of the questions asked who accompanied the participant the first time they indoor tanned (i.e. tanned alone, with friend, with mother, or other). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

How To Use Self-Tanners

Your doctor has told you not to use tanning beds anymore. Your skin is beginning to show more aging than your age should have. You have a family history of skin cancer and want to avoid it. Whatever your reason, you have decided to look at self-tanners as an alternative.

I applaud that decision, but remember to use safe sun practices and/or sunscreens as self-tanners offer no protection to your skin from UVA or UVB rays.

According to About.com:Chemistry, self-tanners have been around in some form since 1960:

In 1960, Coppertone introduced its first sunless tanning product — QT® or Quick Tanning Lotion. This lotion produced an overall orange effect. Today’s sunless tanning products produce much more realistic results. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Healthcare Reform Bill

The healthcare reform bill is 1,017 pages long and contains a lot that will impact Americans. I’m one who believes we had to come into the 21st century and join the rest of the civilized nations in beginning to provide healthcare to all citizens. You be the judge.

Here are 10 things I bet you didn’t know are in the new healthcare reform bill:

  1. Menu labeling. Restaurants with over 20 employees must include calorie counts and other nutrition information on their menus.
  2. SWAG reporting. Doctors must report valuable goodies they receive from health vendors.
  3. Right to pump. New moms must be given space and time to pump breast milk (for employers with over 50 employees).
  4. Research. The bill includes research for postpartum depression.
  5. Tan tax. There’s a 10 percent tax on tanning booths.
  6. Adoption credit. Adoptive parents receive tax credits to encourage adoption.
  7. More research. The bill includes research for Indian health studies.
  8. Safety. The bill includes required background checks for long-term care workers.
  9. Right wing. The bill includes required abstinence education.
  10.  Transparency. Employers must show employer and employee contributions for healthcare on W-2 forms.

Fox News (“fair and balanced”) has said that it’s “what you don’t know that can hurt you.” Fox also said that “42 percent of doctors said they would quit or retire if healthcare reform became law.” It’s time to stop the fear mongering, lies and deception and understand just what this reform will and won’t do for the American public.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Skin Cancer Alert: Tanning Bed Use Increases In Winter

It’s winter so why think about skin cancer?   One of the major risk factors is UVA and UVB rays from sun exposure which is much more common in the summer.  Tanning beds never cease being used, regardless of season and may even be used more in the winter than summer.

There is never a wrong season to be reminded of the prevalence of skin cancer or the risk factors for skin cancer or ways to prevent skin cancer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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