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Important Things You Should Know About Sun Tanning, Skin Damage and Skin Cancer

Updated on August 25, 2009

Summer has arrived and it’s time to break out the shorts and skirts. However, many people are hesitant to step out in summer apparel. And for most, it’s a body issue. It’s rare to find an average person that is not self-conscious in one way or another.

Society has set forth the notion that the ideal body must be flawless. Imperfections, no matter how slight, are abhorred. So how do we maintain this faux image? At one time or another, the average person surrenders their body to various degrees of damage.

One of the most popularized methods of beautifying for summer is tanning. Tanning, or specifically exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, imposes dangers to skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, yet this does not prevent millions of people from sunbathing and using tanning beds yearly.

Sun tanning or sun bathing damages your skin and potentially leads to skin cancer.
Sun tanning or sun bathing damages your skin and potentially leads to skin cancer.

Skin Cancer, Risk Factors and Safety

Some startling statistics were filed by CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) division of Cancer Prevention and Control. The most alarming is that 65%-90% of melanomas, the most dangerous of skin cancers, are caused by exposure to UV light or sunlight.

In 2005 it was reported that 53,792 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin. In that same year, 8,345 people died of melanoma skin cancer. Bear in mind that these statistics do not include other types of skin cancer such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

General risk factors for people that are more susceptible to skin cancers are people with: lighter skin color, family history of skin caner, personal history of skin cancer, history of sunburns, skin that burns, reddens, freckles or becomes painful in the sun, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair and certain types and large number of moles.

The best preventative measure is to protect yourself from the sun. Sun-protective practices include avoiding midday hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m) when UV rays are strongest, avoiding UV lights from tanning beds, covering up with clothing to protect exposed skin, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, wearing sunglasses that wrap around and regular broad spectrum (protection from both UVA and UVB lights) sunscreen use of at least 15 SPF or higher.

Sunless tanning booths expose skin to dangerous UV lights.
Sunless tanning booths expose skin to dangerous UV lights.

Alternative Sunless Tanning Products

There is an alternative to sun tanning that reproduces similar results without associated damages. Sunless tanning provides the same benefits without the risk of skin cancer. Sunless tanning is being used more and more frequently. Sunless methods have evolved, and today you can find various forms available.

Sunless tanning products are available in a variety of forms such as pills, self-tanners, and bronzers. They come in creams, gels, and sprays. Tanning accelerators (lotions or pills, usually containing the amino acid tyrosine) claim to stimulate formation of melanin. Melanin is pigment that gives skin and hair color and are formed by melanocyte cells.

Tanning pills that contain canthaxanthin have been linked to side effects such as hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy. The former is a condition in which yellow deposits are formed in the retina of the eye. Canthaxanthin is found in small amounts of certain foods as a color additive. When used as a tanner, much more is needed. Consumption will deposit it over the skin turning it orange-brown. FDA approves the use of canthaxanthin in food, but not in tanning formulas.

Sunless or self-tanning lotions that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) are the most effective products. This is a colorless sugar that produces color by interacting with the dead skin cells. As the dead skin cells are sloughed off your "tan" fades. Normally, the change will last five to seven days depending upon care.

Sunless tanning is a better option than sun tanning.
Sunless tanning is a better option than sun tanning.

If you’re seeking a tan, I implore that you try other methods before resorting to UV exposure. Tanning products have come a long ways and produce very similar results when applied correctly. Review this hub on sunless tanning for great how to tips and advice to get a desirable natural looking tan.

It’s okay to want to look nice. Looking nice makes you feel good about yourself. It gives you the self confidence to do things you may not normally have the courage to do. It allows you a certain aura you permeate to everyone around you. It’s what draws others to you. And self confidence is contagious.

However, it is never worth damaging your body. I highly advocate any method(s) that produce the same benefits without the associated risks. For more information, watch the video below that is produced by

Association Between Sun Danger and Sun Tanning


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    • Ladybird33 profile image

      Ladybird33 8 years ago from Fabulous USA

      Very good information, I hope everyone reads this.

    • EnrapturedFlame profile image

      EnrapturedFlame 8 years ago

      Thats a great idea dohn! Thanks.. I think I will try it :)

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Hey, EnrapturedFlame. This is a very informative hub. Would it be possible to add some links from perhaps Amazon to promote some of these products (i.e. DHA, suntanning gels, sprays, etc.). It might make you a little money if you do!