Time to embrace my pale roots

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By The Staff

Sophomore year - Marion County High School's Valentine's Day dance - that's when it started. "It" being my obsession with being tan.

I remember asking my mom if I could go to the tanning bed so that I could be tan in the little black number I bought for the dance. She hesitantly said yes, but tried to get one of her friends, Mary Lou Marrett, to talk me out of it. Mary Lou warned me of how bad it was for my skin, how it caused premature wrinkles and how it was highly addictive for some people.

Oh, and yeah, it could cause skin cancer. Did I listen? No. Hence, my obsession with tanning began.

Now, don't get me wrong. My obsession with tanning pales (no pun intended) in comparison to some women who literally look like leather suitcases. But, having that summertime glow all-year round is something that I have come to enjoy. I absolutely hate being pale and ever since that fateful day in February of 1995, I have convinced myself that a couple visits to the tanning bed every now and then won't hurt anything.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

Last week, I realized just how wrong I truly was when I read the following sentence, "Study: Tanning beds as deadly as arsenic."

Hmmm... So tanning beds are as deadly as the white powdered substance that is used in rat poison and weed killer? That's an interesting and frightening comparison, I must admit. I mean, I've known for quite some time that tanning beds aren't "good" for you, but neither are diet drinks and I'm not going to give up my Diet Mountain Dew. But, the recent findings released about tanning beds have made me want to end my obsession with tanning. According to those findings, the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30.

Now they tell me. I just turned 30 last month. Great.

No, in all seriousness, after reading the new information released, I have become extremely concerned of the consequences I might face because of my use of tanning beds in the past.

According to the research, which was published in the medical journal, Lancet Oncology, on Wednesday, most lights used in tanning beds give off mainly ultraviolet radiation, which cause skin and eye cancer.

Not everyone believes the research to be completely accurate, however.

"The fact that is continuously ignored is that there is no proven link between the responsible use of sunbeds and skin cancer," Kathy Banks, chief executive of The Sunbed Association, a European trade association of tanning bed makers and operators, said in a statement.

According to Banks, most users of tanning beds use them less than 20 times a year.

Ummm... I'm no expert, but I don't believe that to be true at all. But, c'mon, consider the source. She represents tanning bed makers and operators. She's a little biased, to say the least.

Studies have shown that as the use of tanning beds has increased among people under 30, doctors have seen a rise in the number of young people with skin cancer. In fact, according to an Associated Press news article, in Britain, melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, is now the leading cancer diagnosed in women in their 20s.

Previous studies found younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to get melanoma than people who have never used them.

After reading all of the above information last week, I have to admit, I was scared. I immediately emailed my twin sister and told her that I was convinced that I had skin cancer. She and I both plan on visiting a dermatologist very soon.

Now, I say all of this after spending my entire Saturday sunning myself on a pontoon boat at Land Between the Lakes. So, it's obvious that the fear of possibly getting (or having) skin cancer hasn't completely sunk (or soaked) in yet. But, I'm at least aware of the potential dangers of sun tanning and tanning beds and plan to get screened for skin cancer very, very soon.

It's probably time that I actually start to listen to the American Cancer Society's advice, which is to try bronzing or self-tanning creams instead of tanning beds. That sounds great, if I didn't turn out looking like an orange freak. Maybe I should just embrace my Caucasian roots and be white for a change. My skin definitely deserves a break!