Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tanning Beds--Don't Do It!

This is a deadly serious subject and one that I'm qualified to rag on about because about 10 years ago, I had a mole on my leg that started changing a little. When I went to get it looked at by a dermatologist, he tried to act pretty calm, but I could see that he was alarmed by it. By the way, it wasn't even very big or scary-looking, but it had a light colored ring around it and it was slightly raised. So he cut it off and sent it in to the lab. A couple of days later (he rushed it through to get a quick answer), I got a call from his assistant saying that I had a malignant melanoma and had to have more skin removed from around the original site immediately.

It really wasn't a big deal and I was lucky that it was removed early before it had a chance to spread (it's cured 100%), but now, of course, I'm leery of every mole and freckle because people actually die from melanoma. Bob Marley died from melanoma! Almost 69,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma and over 8,500 people are expected to die from it in 2009. Of course, I'm sure Bob Marley never used a tanning bed and there are certainly other ways that skin cancer begins to grow besides tanning beds, but doesn't the fact that so many more (50% increase since 1980) skin cancer cases are in young women tell you something? Young men don't use tanning beds as much as young women and they haven't shown the same rise in melanoma incidence.

I have no doubt that the skin cancer I had was caused by the use of tanning beds when I was in my bodybuilding competition days. Truthfully, it's pretty dumb to tan for a contest because everybody uses a really dark skin dye on the day they compete anyway--even those with naturally dark skin such as African Americans, so it's a complete waste of effort.

Anyway, I hope you've all read by now that international cancer experts are confirming in an announcement published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology that tanning beds and the ultraviolet radiation they put out are as poisonous as arsenic. They literally described it as poison and said that they are at about the same level of cancer-causing danger as cigarettes. Personally, I think tanning beds are much worse than cigarettes and I really hate cigarettes. Also, they've said that people who use tanning beds before age 30 increase their risk of skin cancer by 75%.

So, can't we all just learn to love natural skin color whatever color it happens to be?


  1. Scary...I'm so glad you're fine now.

    I had a small mole on my upper chest checked, 7ish years ago, and it had "a few abnormal cells" so it was removed; another one was removed the next year but it came back normal. Nothing since then.

    My sister's had some pretty bad ones removed and gets very regular check-ups; her dermatologist is pretty aggressive with testing/removing, due to my sister's history.

    Bottom line: I hope you see a dermatologist regularly, Julie. I was told to get checked annually, which in my case may be overkill, since I had a very mild little mole. (I went a few years without getting checked out but I'm back on a regular schedule now.)

    And...amen on loving our skin as it is. :-)

  2. I'm glad that you are both OK! My grandfather and father both had a malignant melanomas, and my father has had most of one of his ears removed because of it. Neither ever used a tanning bed but years outside without sunscreen (Grandpa was a Sheriff's deputy and dad enjoyed a lot of outdoor sports in his youth) combined with fair English/ Irish/ German skin, and you've got a recipe for it for sure. The thinning ozone layer makes all of us far more likely to be at risk. I'm quite a believer in the value of a good SPF 15 or higher sunscreen-and hats if you'll be spending a lot of time outdoors! But yes, I recently read a study that said that tanning beds are an even bigger danger than a thinner ozone layer for the skin.Spray on tans probably have issues of their own, but they can't be as bad as a tanning booth!

    Another added benefit of sunscreen; fewer wrinkles! I've been using it every day since age 24 and have very few lines at 44. I know that there are some ingredients that are best to avoid in sunscreens, but I can't remember which ones. Have you read anything about those Julie? For those who wear makeup and lipstick or lip balm there are now many brands that have between a 15 and 35 spf. I don't like wearing makeup very much, but if I know that I'll be spending more than 15 minutes in the sun I'll use it; the slight color change makes it easy to see if I've missed a spot or if it's wearing off. I guess that I'm just super paranoid about losing an ear, the tip of my nose, or worse!

  3. Hey, Kendall--this is definitely a case of "stay paranoid, stay alive". Anyway, keep at it and be happy to have been given the gift of a warning. We're glad you're okay!

    Jen, you speak and live the truth! You have amazingly young skin and have obviously done a great job of protecting it.
    That's a pretty clever tip about using makeup as a signal that your skin is changing color! Thanks for that!