For the Millionth Time... The Dangers of Tanning Beds

I remember the exact day I got the call. I had just returned from LA, visiting my now husband Brandon, who was playing for the Kings at the time. I hadn't been home for maybe 15 minutes when I walked into my bedroom and the phone rang. It was my best friend, Yo, obviously calling to see how the trip went, and if I wanted to come over for some vino and a marathon of The Office (BBC version obviously). I remember exactly where I was standing, at my desk in front of the window. I remember it was a perfect day, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, a rarity in Vancouver. But this was not a sunny happy day. She didn't hesitate with the news. It came out quick, not rushed, but to the point. She had stage 3 melanoma, a form of skin cancer. By the way, there are only 4 stages in the progression of cancer. The thing I remember most about that call is her laughing at me when I cried. Typical Yo. Her voice didn't shake, it was steady, it was.... normal. That's how strong she was about the situation she found herself in. She wasn't trying to warn me of a long hard road ahead for her and her family, the tightest knit, most amazing family I've ever been blessed to know, she was venting if anything. She had a full coarse load in college, a part time job at the beach, a partying schedule to maintain, and somehow she has to fit treatment for cancer in. Ain't nobody got time for that! I know that's not what was going on on the inside, we've never talked about it, but I'm sure she was terrified. However I know for a fact her strength and faith shed beat cancer, completely outweighed any fear or doubt she might have had.

This post isn't meant to be preachy. I know it will come across that way. Mostly by those of you who haven't had skin cancer affect your life and are still diving into tanning beds. I know the tone of that last sentence sounded angry. And it was meant to. The reason being, is that I am angry, I'm angry that still, after all the information out there regarding the dangers of tanning beds, more friends than I would like to count are still using them. I'm angry because I love them. I don't want to lose them. Whether they are close to me, or are acquaintances. If you have the chance to prevent cancer, why wouldn't you? So bare with me folks, disregard my tone, and read on, for your own good.

We've all heard the excuses, most of us have used them, myself included. Pale unsightly skin tone, vitamin D deficiency, the tanning technician sets my time to make sure its safe for me, I don't go enough for it to be dangerous. They're excuses, nothing more.

Lets break those excuses down. First off, I feel your pain my pale skin sisters, my skin tone is alabaster. I am as white as they come. In high school I had bleach blonde hair and people would call me albino. I now have dark brown hair, don't tan, rarely use tanning lotion or sprays, but no one looks at me like I'm unsightly, I landed a babe of a man for crying out loud! FAIR IS BEAUTIFUL! And if you're still that self conscious about your skin colour, makeup goes a long way. I'm not saying smother dark makeup all over your grill, but a touch of bronzer and blush in the right places makes fair skin look absolutely glowing and beautiful. Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Katy Perry, the list goes on. Pale is pretty. Period.

Vitamin D deficiency is an easy one, pop a vitamin. If you have a deficiency to vitamin D it can be a serious medical problem, but why would you try and fix something dangerous, with something dangerous? It doesn't make sense, its like taking heroin just to prevent the withdrawal. And that tanning technician you speak of? Most of the time its a teenager at her after school job. Isn't being a technician something you have to go to college for? I worked at subway and wore a shirt that said sandwich artist, but I ain't no artist, honey. If you want to trust someone who went through a day or two of training on how to operate a tanning bed, with your "skin tone breakdown," and call them a technician, then I guess that's your prerogative.

For the ladies using the, "I don't go enough for it to be dangerous" line. Lets get to the facts. These aren't assumptions these are the cold hard facts from the American Cancer Society.

  • Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year boosts the risk almost another two percent.
  • People who tan indoors just four times per year increase their risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma by 15 percent.
  • Just one indoor tanning session per year in high school or college boosts the risk of basal cell carcinoma by 10 percent. That risk is increased to 73 percent if one tans six times per year.
  • People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

Scary, right? I didn't make those numbers up, and that's not even all of the facts. The one that speaks the loudest is the last point. People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%. All it takes is once people. Lets get to some of the other scary facts about tanning beds and skin cancer.

  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an affiliate of the World Health Organization, includes ultraviolet (UV) tanning devices in its Group 1, a list of the most dangerous cancer-causing substances. Group 1 also includes agents such as plutonium, cigarettes, and solar UV radiation.
  • Frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure
  • From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men.
  • One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 57 minutes).
  • An estimated 76,250 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2012, with 9,180 estimated to result in death.
  • 1 in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age

Speaking on that last point, tanning beds aren't the only problem. Although they are more dangerous than the sun, because they emit mostly UVA rays at a much fuller, prominent rate. Just because you may skip the bed, but lay in the summer sun for hours, doesn't make you any better. If you're not lathering yourself up in SPF, and the appropriate amount of SPF,  you are putting yourself at risk just like tanning bed users. Not to mention getting wrinkles. If this whole getting a tan thing is about vanity, Id rather by pale and look 35 when I'm 45, then have a tan and look 45 when I'm 35 thank you very much! 

  • More than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun.

Now that I've scared you, melanoma and other skin cancers are treatable. Its not a death sentence. But why risk getting it in the first place? Here's how you can save your skin and prevent skin cancer. 

  • For God's sake, skip the tanning beds all together.
  • Lather yourself up in SPF 30 at least when you're exposed to the sun
  • Make sure you're SPF lotion hasn't expired, rendering it useless
  • If the UV index is high that day, wear a hat
  • don't skip the lips, apply a sunscreen based lip balm to your lips
  • Get moles checked out by a dermatologist. (My husband has never been diagnosed with any type of skin cancer, knock on wood, but has had roughly 5 suspicious moles removed from his body) 
  • Check out the ABCDE's of skin cancer detection. This can help you detect possibly dangerous moles.

Now I'm sure you're wondering what happened to Yo. Well my friends Yo is aaaaaall good. She had to go in for multiple surgeries to remove her cancer. It was a long grueling battle, lots of time spent in the hospital, sitting in a chair for hours on end, receiving her medication. Not to mention her time spent on the table and in recovery, sleeping in a hospital bed, away from the comforts of home. It wasn't just the removal of a mole, she had to remove all of the lymph nods in her leg because the cancer had spread. Her leg shows her battle scars, which is in the shape of a large Z but if stretched out end to end would be about the length of my forearm. It doesn't stop there though, although she is healthy today, and cancer free, her left leg and abdomen are permanently swollen. She cant use saunas or hot tubs because she would swell up even more and without lymph nods she would be unable to bring down the swelling. She is also never "in the clear" she will forever be worried about the melanoma returning, but this time in her organs, because you cannot just get a blood test diagnosing the cancer. You're healthy, until you're not. Since that day, Yo and the rest of her family have raised over $40,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. They took something so negative, and turned it into something most of us could only dream of doing. Well that was 2009, and this was 2011 when Yo walked down the isle at my wedding. Don't tell me this beauty could use a tan. If I was a lesbian, Id hit it. 

Today is 2013 and shes moving to London, meeting up with my other best friend, Danica. So they won't be there to meet my newborn daughter this summer, which i resent and hold against them every second I can. Just kidding!! Slightly jealous they're living it up in London Town, and if they are happy, I'm happy. But still pissed and think its a bunch of bullocks! ;)