Sun Diego burns sting deep

by Jose Gutierrez

You’d be a fool not to enjoy the great sunshine provided by the San Diego sun. You’d be a bigger fool to stand in the sunshine to work on a tan—that goes for tanning beds too. Living in Sun Diego my entire life, I’ve experienced my fair share of sunburns and tans, so I’ve developed a propensity to practice safe sunning. Apparently that’s too much to ask for at Sun Diego State, a school rampant with risky behavior. Exposing your body to ultraviolet radiation without proper protection is simply inexcusable.

[quote] But wait, isn’t tanned skin healthy skin?[/quote]

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “a tan does not indicate good health. A tan is a response to injury, because skin cells signal that they have been hurt by UV rays by producing more pigment.”

I’ve seen countless students walk around with glistening red skin, usually around their neck and upper back. In some ways, I’m so tempted to give them a solid pat on the back to commend them for their extreme dedication to get some melanin in their skin. But more so, I want to pat them just so it can sting a little. They might be hoping for a golden glow to emanate from their skin, but the truth is tanning under the San Diego sun or in indoor tanning salons is simply asking for trouble.

The Skin Cancer Foundation emphasizes that ultraviolet radiation is a proven human carcinogen. I’m sure this is nothing new to you. What you might not know is people younger than 35 who use a tanning bed increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

I realize not everyone who spends prolonged hours in the sun without protection is trying to tan. Sunscreen can be a hassle. I can at least say that those who lie down on those cancer beds—ahem, tanning beds—might walk away with more than just a healthy tan.

[quote]Our good friends at the CDC confirmed that in 2010, more than 60,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with melanoma and more than 9,000 people died from it, resulting in a conclusion that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.[/quote]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides skin cancer statistics for individual states. In 2009, approximately 9,000 Californians were diagnosed with melanoma. They estimate that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Let “one in five” sink in for a moment. Who knew that exposing your skin to ultraviolet radiation could have such severe consequences? It’s not as if this message is displayed on the back of every single sunblock bottle right above the listed ingredients. Oh wait—it is.  But despite all the warnings, the pervasive “healthy tan” mentality doesn’t seem to fade, unlike that tan, which actually will.

Tanning isn’t an issue about beauty, as intrinsically intertwined as they both are. It’s an issue about health and irresponsible behavior. If you haven’t already been compelled to moderate your tanning behavior, then Godspeed to you and your skin cells because none of this should be new information. I know you probably think it won’t happen to you, or a friend, or family members. One in five is completely irrelevant to California residents, obviously.

To those who will continue tanning, indoors or outdoors, protected or unprotected, I applaud you for doing what you want with your body, as you’re entitled to. You’ll continue to have fun in the California sun and I will too. Only I’ll be sitting in the shade, wearing long sleeves as usual, slathering on some sunblock to protect my skin from early aging and ultraviolet radiation. You’ll probably walk away with either a lustrous golden glow or shimmering red skin begging for mercy. If you ask for some sunblock, I’ll gladly share. But when you ask for sympathy for your careless behavior, I won’t even be sorry.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock.