Be sun smart: Don’t believe the tanning hype!

SunIt’s sometimes hard to believe that the sun could do any serious harm when its warmth and light can relax us and boost our spirits. But the benefits come with a dangerous tradeoff: Did you know that melanoma (aka skin cancer) rates for people aged 18-39 have increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men in the last 40 years?

A tan, whether you get it on the beach, in a bed, or through incidental exposure, is bad news, any way you acquire it. Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you have one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage. A person’s risk for melanoma — the most serious form of skin cancer — doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns.

No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots and more), as well as skin cancer. In fact, indoor UV tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a natural darker skin color means you’re safe, either: Everyone, regardless of skin color, can sunburn. Unfortunately, many patients and even some physicians are under the impression that non-Caucasian people are immune to this disease. That is one reason people of color are diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages when it becomes more difficult to treat. Click here for more detailed information on skin cancer and skin of color.

The good news: If you can SPOT it, you can STOP it! Check your skin head-to-toe every month for anything suspicious, because even painless spots can be dangerous; visit The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website to find out what to look for during a self-examination and learn about the warnings signs of skin cancer.

Click here to download the American Academy of Dermatology’s “Body Mole Map” to record your spots during your next skin self-exam.

Remember: We are here to help! If something doesn’t seem right, call the UF Student Health Care Center at (352) 392-1161 to make an appointment with your primary care medical team.

Information courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation