Base Tan Insanity! – How it Increased Skin Cancer Risk

Base Tan Insanity! – How it Increased Skin Cancer Risk

I have been perusing the Internet and have actually found several articles touting the benefits of developing some “color” before going out into the sun. For me this way of thinking is tantamount to shooting yourself in the face if you have a headache. Sure, your head is no longer throbbing, but now you have a whole new set of problems.

Where did the idea of the “base” tan as a protective mechanism come from?

Many of the supporters of this idea believe that if you gradually stimulate the melanin production in the skin it will offer a natural barrier against the suns harmful rays. Technically, this is correct. Melanin is the pigment which gives skin & hair it’s natural color. It also absorbs some (not all) UV rays to protect our skin from DNA damage. Therefore, darker skinned individuals have more natural protection than their pale counterparts. When fair skin is exposed to UV rays it signals the melanocytes to produce more melanin turning the skin darker to protect it from further damage. So it stands to reason that the more melanin production we stimulate, the better off we will be when we step out into the sun.

The problem with this way of thinking is the way the melanin is stimulated. Whether it is the local tanning salon or laying out in your backyard, the culprit is the same: UV rays. Plain and simple, UV rays are RADIATION! UV radiation can cause DNA damage which in turn can lead to skin cancer, premature aging, suppression of the immune system, and cataracts. This UV damage occurs even if we don’t burn. That base tan that you so carefully developed can cause just as much damage to your skin over time as one bad sunburn (remember, sun damage is cumulative). And what about the protective factor of all that melanin production? Well it equates to about an SPF of a 3 or 4, which will protect you for about as long as it take you to walk from the tanning salon to your car in the parking lot!

Basically, what I am saying is that no tan is a good tan. Any UV radiation that is causing a change in the skin’s color is causing damage to the skin.

Base Tan Insanity! – How it Increased Skin Cancer Risk

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