Excessive tanners risk serious health problems for fashion

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

Although summer is just a few months away, some students are getting an early start on their seasonal tan.

“I go two to three times a week for 15 minutes at a time,” said Lacey Kraemer, a sophomore consumer affairs major.

“Before I went to Miami over Christmas break, I wanted to look good. Now I go to keep my color and it warms me up when it’s cold outside.”

According to Beth Andrews, a junior interior design major who works at Year Round Brown, Inc., this is the business’ busiest time of the year. She said there is often a line-up of customers who are waiting to get a bed.

Tanning is a popular activity year round. Some students do it just to warm up on cold winter days. Others do it simply because they can’t think of anything else to do with their free time.

“I used to go two to three times a week, but now I just go once a week because I’m getting lazy,” said Jenni Nachtigal, a freshman general studies major.

Still, others do it because they can’t stop. “Tanorexia” has become a popular term to describe an addiction to tanning.

According to a study done at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, frequent tanners (those who tan between eight and 15 times a month) experience physical withdrawal symptoms, like nausea and shaking, when they aren’t able to get to a bed.

This addiction may be caused by endorphins produced in the skin. These are the same opiate-like chemicals that give you the high you get when exercising.

Some doctors are classifying tanning addiction as a type of substance abuse.

Tanorexia is a growing trend all across the country, and some states, including South Dakota, have attempted to combat the problem.

Senate Bill 208 would have required minors under age 18 to have written permission from their parents or legal guardians before tanning. The bill failed on Feb. 20, receiving only 10 votes on the Senate floor.

Tanning beds use ultraviolet light, the same type of light the sun radiates, to give your skin that sun-kissed glow. However, UV light has been proven to cause skin cancer.

Doctors advise against tanning both outdoors and in tanning beds, which have a false reputation of being “safe.” Side effects of UV light are melanoma (the most common type of cancer among women who are between 25 and 29 years old, according to the American Cancer Society), freckling, discoloration, increased roughness, dryness and premature wrinkling.

Doctors do agree that some sun exposure is healthy. The skin needs UV rays in order to produce Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption. Ultraviolet light is also used to help treat both depression and seasonal affective disorder.

When outdoors, use a sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher, try to keep your skin covered and avoid sunburns. If you must look like you spent a day on the ocean, use a self-tanner; tanning beds are just a bad idea in general. Those with the highest risk of getting skin cancer have a history of childhood sunburns, fair skin with light eyes and a family history of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is very treatable when it’s caught early. Try doing a skin examination once a month (perhaps the same day you do your breast or testicular self-exam), so you have a better shot of noticing a change in your freckles or moles. If you do notice a change in shape or color of a mole, go see your doctor right away.