As the holidays approach, many people are worried about looking their best for upcoming events and warm-weather getaways. Unfortunately, for many people, looking tan is an important part of that. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), 69 percent of male and 61 percent of female respondents said people look better with a tan, and 60 percent of men and 54 percent of women thought that a tan gave them a "healthy" appearance. Instead of being a sign of health, a tan is the body's way of protecting itself from the damage it has received.
In the fall and winter months, many people turn to indoor tanning salons to achieve a tan. In fact, almost one million Americans visit a tanning salon each day.
"Indoor tanning is an unnecessary activity. While it produces a temporary cosmetic effect, it can cause long-term health problems," said dermatologist Arielle N.B. Kauvar, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, New York City. "Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most preventable cause of skin cancer. Self-tanning products are a safe alternative way to get the cosmetic effect."
It has long been known that exposure to UV rays causes premature aging and skin cancer. Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen.
Current research also has shown a connection between indoor tanning and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the second most common cancer among women aged 20 - 29. More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year and it is estimated that there will be 111,900 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States.
Despite this evidence, the indoor tanning industry claims that indoor tanning can be beneficial to your health. Recent reports in the news have suggested that vitamin D may help a person reduce his or her risk for cancer and other diseases.
"Because vitamin D can be produced through exposure to UV light, some people may think that they have to have exposure to the sun or a tanning lamp to produce optimal amounts of the nutrient," Dr. Kauvar said. "But there are safe ways to get vitamin D each day - drinking a couple of glasses of vitamin D-fortified milk or orange juice, eating salmon or mackerel and other foods rich in vitamin D, or taking a supplement - that do not pose a health risk like tanning does."
To help people, particularly teen girls, understand the risks of indoor tanning, the Academy recently produced a public service advertisement campaign (PSA) about this issue.
The Academy's 2006 - 2007 skin cancer PSA campaign speaks to teens in a language they can understand, instant messaging (IM). Approximately 53 million American computer users - most of them teens - use IMs. Many exchange IMs more frequently than e-mail. It has a language all its own, and the Academy has developed this campaign specifically for teens who use it.
This aggressive campaign consists of television, radio and print advertisements that highlight the risks of skin cancer and skin damage which indoor tanning can cause.
"The Academy is committed to leading the charge to reduce mortality from and the incidence of skin cancer in the next 10 to 30 years," said Dr. Kauvar. "Through this PSA campaign, we are targeting a critical age group to help motivate them to avoid this risky activity entirely and help reduce the skin cancer statistics."