The tanning addiction exposed
By Bob Rakow For Sun-Times Media
Dr. Nadedza Djurovic
Blocking the sun
Being mindful of sun safety during summertime is important, especially for children.
According to the American Cancer Society, avoiding sunburn during childhood and adolescence plays a significant role in reducing the risk of skin cancer later in life.
The society recommends these four strategies for reducing your risk of skin cancer:
1. Slip on a shirt. Choose shirts and pants to protect as much skin as possible.
2. Slop on sunscreen. Choose a hat that shades the face, neck and ears.
3. Wrap on sunglasses. Protect your eyes from UV rays.
4. Limit sun exposure. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the UV rays are strongest.
Sunscreen is not recommended for children less than 6 months old. Keep infants in the shade and protect them with clothing.
Visit www.cancer.org to learn more.
The American Cancer Society
Embattled tanning mom Patricia Krentcil has been ripped by the media, hounded by the paparazzi and lampooned on Saturday Night Live since her April arrest for allowing her 5-year-old daughter to join her at a New Jersey tanning salon.
But Krentcil’s arrest on child endangerment charges has cast a new light on the dangers associated with tanning booths as well as too much exposure to sun.
Summer has arrived, and for many people that means heading to the beach, the community swimming pool or their back yard or patios to work on their tans.
The goal for these sun worshippers is obtain a deep, dark tan. But the long-term consequences of achieving a bronze skin tone are clearly not worth the risks, experts say.
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise. In fact, it is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15 to 29 years old, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Many sun lovers also patronize tanning salons to get a head start on their tans before summer arrives. Others spend some time on a tanning bed before a big event such as a wedding or high school prom.
The indoor tanning industry is big business and has annual estimated revenue of $5 billion, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Nearly 30 million Americans tan indoors every year, and 2.3 million of them are teens, according the foundation reports. On an average day, more than one million Americans use tanning salons, and 71 percent of them are girls and women aged 16-29.
Dr. Nadedza Djurovic, an internal medicine specialist who practices in Merrillville, warns her patients of the dangers of outdoor tanning and tanning salons, but understands what draws them to tanning booths.
“The use of tanning beds is addictive. People like it. It feels good,” Djurovic said.
Research has shown that frequent users of tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction.
Researchers found that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. The findings were published in the April 2011 issue of the journal Addiction Biology.
The health risks associated with tanning beds and overexposure to sunrays are enormous:
Indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.
About 65 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.
French fashion designer Coco Chanel is often credited for popularizing tanned skin, Djurovic said.
In the 1920s, Chanel accidentally got sunburned while visiting the French Riviera. Her fans apparently liked the subsequent tan and started to adopt darker skin tones themselves.
Unimpressed with tan
But Djurovic does not believe the look is appealing.
“To me, it looks old fashioned,” she said.
She added that many people who spend time tanning tan are desperately trying to change their appearance and improve their self-esteem.
“Most of the people (who tan) are young and beautiful. They only need to like themselves,” she said. “Modern women should like the way they look.”
Djurovic blamed the fashion industry for convincing many women that a dark tan is a sign of beauty and good health.
“Why do you think you look better with a tan? Tanning is not a sign of good health. It’s a sign of damaged skin,” she said.
Djurovic advises her patients to focus on eating well, getting an appropriate amount of sleep and staying in good shape to stay healthy.
She added that protection against the sun’s rays is important even during brief exposure.
“Sun screen is recommended every day,” Djurovic said.
She added that a sun screen with a sun protection factor of 30 should be applied liberally, even on cloudy days.