Volume 12, Issue 22 ~ May 27- June 2, 2004
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Got an Envionmental Question? Send it to: EARTH TALK, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. Or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com. Or e-mail us at: [email protected].
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

What’s the Safest Way to Get a Tan?
–Lauren Nivens, Cope, SC

While dermatologists continue to remind us that long-term sun exposure can harm our skin, causing wrinkles, burns and age spots and, more seriously, malignant melanoma and other skin cancers, many people still yearn for that sun-worshipper look.

“We encourage people to use self-tanning creams,” says Dr. Robin Ashinoss from New York University’s Medical Center and the American Academy of Dermatology, which can help you find a dermatologist in your area. Creams use di-hydroxyacetone, a compound that binds to and stains dead skin cells, giving you a temporary tan. But beware, self-tanning creams will not protect you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, which stimulate melanoma, change pigment color and damage skin cell DNA.

Using tanning beds is your worst option. People who use tanning beds or tanning lamps face a significantly higher risk of developing common types of skin cancer, according to a recent study published by the National Cancer Institute. Because artificial tanning devices use the same energy source as the sun’s rays — UV radiation — researchers suspect that tanning beds have the same damaging effects as overexposure to the sun. A recent study at Dartmouth College found that people who used a tanning device were 2.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than those who avoided them. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, arising out of the bottom of the outer skin layer. They were also 1.5 times more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, involving tumors that arise in the outer layers of the skin.

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, yet it is also the most common cancer in the United States, accounting for almost half of all cancers, according to the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation. “There is no need to be in the sun. The only benefit is that it helps the body to create vitamin D, for healthy bones,” says Dr. Jim Baral of American Dermatology Center and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

For More Information: American Academy of Dermatology: 888-462-3376, www.aad.org; Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation: 800-227-2732, www.preventcancer.org.

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