A nice tan is viewed as glamorous and desirable, to the point where we’ll spend whatever time is necessary lying in the sun to get one. But no matter what the superficial physical result may be, the truth is that tanning can actually be a life-threatening habit. While sunshine may make us feel and look good, the concept of a healthy tan is starting to go the way of the dinosaur. Here are some of the dangers and effects of spending too much time in the sun that may make you want to think twice about that next trip to the beach.
- Solar exposure to the sun to the point of sunburn. Intentionally or otherwise, we’ve probably all had a painful sunburn kept us awake at night and ended up peeling. This is far from healthy, both in the short and long terms. Multiple sunburns during the teenage years is a leading risk factor for various skin cancers (keep reading).
- Premature aging of the skin. Chronic exposure to the sun causes degenerative changes in the skin called photoaging. Over time, skin can become wrinkled and leathery. Photoaging is often thought of as an unavoidable part of old age, but with proper protection from UV radiation it can be minimized.
- Cataracts. Cataracts are a loss of transparency in the eye’s lens, which can cloud vision and can even rob people of their vision. Research has shown that UV radiation from the sun increases the development of some cataracts. Although curable with surgery, cataracts diminish the sight of millions.
- Skin cancer. Skin cancer is the fastest-growing form of cancer in America. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Although skin cancer has nearly a 100% rate of cure with early diagnosis, chronic exposure to the sun can cause acute injury to the skin.
- Actinic Keratosis. Actinic Keratosis (AK) is the most common pre-cancer, the result of prolonged exposure to the sun. A crusty or scaly bump that arises on or beneath the skin, AK can be the first step leading to Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinoma starts in the outer layers of the skin and can metastasize to other areas of the body if not treated early. It can cause significant disfigurement.
- Melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer and can be hereditary. In addition to excessive sun exposure and sunburns, previous melanoma and moles also increase the risk of developing the disease.
Thankfully, we are becoming educated in the risks of excessive sun exposure and realizing that too much of it can come back to haunt us. Traditional tanning lotion provides little, if any protection from the sun, while sunless tanning lotion can help achieve a bronze with no burn. In the end, though, the best way to avoid problems with overexposure to UV rays is to avoid excessive exposure to the sun.