We need to avoid tanning beds

This past week, we saw the sun for what felt like the first time in forever (and I’m not even being dramatic, I think maybe it was forever). I think, with the appearance of the sun, I actually became happier. Everything stressful suddenly seemed less stressful. Everything good suddenly seemed great, and I was reminded why I love summer so much. But I was also reminded why I tend to avoid the hot summer sunshine rays: skin cancer.

Even though I know PSAs are definitely something better left to a 30-second commercial sponsored by the government, I’m about to deliver my own public service announcement anyway.

STOP GOING TO TANNING BEDS.

And I’m not saying this as a part of some “pale is perfect” beauty effort, because I’m quite certain I alone keep Sephora in business with my consistent purchasing of St. Tropez’s self tanner. I’m saying this because this past week, I read the most startling statistic.

Every year, there are more incidents of skin cancer due to tanning beds than incidents of lung cancer due to cigarettes.

Cigarettes.

Those little things that are actually illegal to you if you’re under the age of 18 and that we receive excessive education on throughout all of middle and high school. Those things our teachers titled “cancer sticks.” Those things we’ve been warned about forever.

Well, those little cancer sticks cause less cancer than tanning beds. And yet I never received one second of education on tanning beds.

I once read this quote that said “it’s no coincidence that tanning beds look like coffins,” and obviously I posted it to Instagram, because I like to consider myself an anti-tanning bed activist, but it never really occurred to me that what I was so adamantly protesting against was actually so deadly. 

I’ve seen the results of “bad cells.” I know what happens when you get suspicious looking skin burned off or removed. But in my mind, skin cancer was always just that: skin cancer. Which meant it was always pretty easily removed and though it may leave some scars, it wasn’t really deadly.

I was wrong.

People do die from skin cancer. Skin cancer, like melanoma, can spread to other parts of your skin, into tissue under the skin, lymph nodes and lungs. From there, it can spread to your liver, brain, bones and every other organ. Skin cancer is not a thing localized to one part of your skin. It spreads. And it kills.

I say this in the least judgment tone possible: it’s really, really stupid to jeopardize your future in the name of vanity. (I am aware that many people use tanning beds to treat other illnesses, such as seasonal affective disorder or eczema. And since there are millions of doctors in the world, and I am not one of them, I’m going to choose not to comment on this.) All I’m saying is that it seems ignorant to put yourself at risk of a deadly disease in the name of darkening your skin. 

According to JAMA Dermatology, each year 450,000 cases of skin cancer can be blamed on indoor tanning. Indoor tanning, a thing that in the last year 43 percent of college students have done.  

And I just think maybe a little more thought should be put into a decision that could shorten your life.   

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