Tan now, pay later
|Learn before you burn. CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore reports on new labeling requirements for sunscreen
June 11, 1999
Web posted at: 12:52 p.m. EDT (1652 GMT)
By Nancy I. Bateman
The tanning habits of Americans give Dr. Bruce Russell nightmares. Russell, an assistant professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Sciences University, points to social pressure as one reason people continue to ignore the fact that sun exposure can lead to wrinkles and skin cancer. A survey of tanning habits conducted by a New York public-relations agency found that in general, men and women still think a tan looks healthier on a person than a natural skin tone. Men think a tanned woman looks healthier and is more attractive, according to the survey.
The same survey points out that 80 percent of us know that skin cancer and the sun are integrally linked. And some of us are getting the message: men are tanning 44 percent less and women are tanning 51 percent less than in previous years. There are still many, however, who continue to equate "tan" and "healthy" and are ignoring the rising rates of skin cancer in our country.
It's an education issue, Russell says. "We are trying to teach kids that their natural skin tone is ideal," he says. The American Cancer Society is in on the act through their educational slogan, "Fry now, pay later." Research shows that melanoma is related to blistering sunburns received in childhood. In Australia, which has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, the legislature asked advertising agencies to use untanned models in their print and television advertisements, knowing that children emulate much of what they see. The agencies agreed. "It's been effective," Russell says. "Much of the time you'll see people with a natural skin tone in Australian ads, wearing hats."
Forget about tanning beds
|PROTECTING YOUR SKIN|
| Avoid the sun during peak hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.|
| Stay in the shade whenever possible.|
| Wear protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.|
| Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, even if the bottle says the sunscreen is waterproof.|
You may have heard that tanning beds are safe. They're not, says Russell. The only safe way to color your skin is by using sunless tanning creams. "These creams are safe," he says, "because they simply stain the skin." It is much smarter to do this than to destroy your skin with too much sun exposure.
Russell showed a slide of a woman in her mid-60s. Her face was smooth and wrinkle-free. This woman had protected her face from the sun, he said, but she hadn't protected her chest, which was red, blotchy, leathery and wrinkled. Sun-damaged skin is more cracked, thinner or thicker than skin that has been protected. "The more your skin is damaged," Russell points out, "the greater your risk of skin cancer."
Copyright 1999 by WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
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