The Dark Side of Tanning
by Dr. Corinne Howington
There’s nothing healthy about a tan. Simply put, a tan equals your skin cells in trauma trying to protect themselves from cancer. Just one sun-damaged cell can initiate the onset of melanoma, which can get into the bloodstream and spread. Even if melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is cut out, cancer may reappear months or years later, often in the lung, liver or brain.
Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocyte cells in the epidermis of the skin. These are the cells that make the melanin that results in skin color. It is also the most serious and dangerous type of skin cancer because it can spread easily to other organs in the body. But since the sun’s UV rays cause 95 percent of all melanomas, the good news is that melanoma is largely preventable by avoiding over exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
While this is an important message for adults to heed for themselves, it is even more critical for their children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just a few serious sunburns or trips to the tanning bed can increase a young person’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Parents should know, too, that it can take as little as 15 minutes for unprotected skin to be damaged by the sun’s UV rays and that it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.
Here are five easy ways to avoid the dark side of tanning:
1. Seek shade. The strength of UV radiation is highest in the four-hour period around noon. That would be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or, during daylight savings time, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The best thing you can do for your skin is to plan your day to get out of the sun or seek shade when the sun is high in the sky.
2. Protective clothing. Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, especially your shoulders, arms and legs. Choose loose fitting, closely woven fabrics that cast a dense shadow when held up to the light.
3. Broad-brimmed hat. A hat with a wide brim is a great way to protect the top of your head and also your neck, ears and face. These are parts of the body where skin cancer often occurs.
4. Sunglasses. The most effective way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses that are labeled “UV400” or “100% UV Protection” and wrap around the sides of the face. Darker lenses do not provide better eye protection. In fact, lens color does not matter at all.
5. Sunscreen. Used properly, sunscreens are effective in preventing sunburn. This means generously applying SPF30 broad spectrum sunscreen to your skin 20 minutes before you head outdoors and re-applying every two hours. Studies have shown that SPF30 sunscreen decreases your chances of developing melanoma by 80 percent.
Sunscreen should never be used to extend the amount of time you spend in the sun and should not be used to help get a tan. You should also be aware that some drugs and medical conditions can make you more vulnerable to UV damage. These include Retin-A skin cream, antibiotics and cataracts.
Too much UV exposure may also result in structural damage to the skin – burning or scarring in the short term and premature aging or skin cancer in the long-term.
People with fair skin and light-colored eyes are usually more vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays, but melanomas can occur in anyone. A July 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed it is more deadly in people with darker skin. African American patients were most likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages than any other group in the study, and they also had the worst prognosis and the lowest overall survival rate.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, including places that do not receive frequent sun exposure, and is likely to have a similar appearance to a mole. Unlike a mole, however, a melanoma will usually grow larger and become more irregular in shape and color. If you’re concerned about a mole or lesion on your body, talk to your doctor and learn the ABCDE rule, which is a useful guide for detecting potentially dangerous moles on your skin. Look for moles that are asymmetrical (not the same on both sides), have irregular borders, have changed color, are 0.5 centimeters or larger in diameter or have changed in size, shape, color or height. If you are worried about a mole or see any of the signs described above, see your doctor right away.
What: Spend a day on Ossabaw Island making art. Spend the day on your own or explore the creative side of cell phone photos in a workshop led by award winning photographer Stephen B. Morton.
When: Sunday, June 5, 10am – 4pm.
How to register: Link to Ossabaw Island Creative Day Trip
Bring your own materials to paint, sketch, write or shoot photos on Ossabaw Island’s beach and North End. Spend the day on your own or participate in an optional camera phone/Instagram photo workshop led by Stephen B. Morton. nationally renowned photographer and photojournalist.
Using Instagram, Morton will guide participants “to see things differently, like details—up close, looking beyond the obvious photograph, looking for shapes, composition, lighting and contrast,” said Morton.
There will be a 20-to-30 minute tutorial beginning at 9:15am at the mainland dock prior to departure for Ossabaw. On the island, after a short group session, Morton will lead an optional photo safari along the marsh and (if time permits) to the 1820s tabby slave cabins. He will be available for one-on-one discussion.
“On Ossabaw you can step back in time. Something about that can be captured with photographs, especially using different filters found on Instagram,” said Morton. “We need to stop and look at the details that people might walk right by—find that micro world that lives out there, that you don’t see in the city.”
Check out Stephen Morton’s Instagram photos here: http://www.stephenmorton.com
An Ossabaw Island visit includes excellent art-making inspiration: possible sightings of a variety of wildlife including wading birds and feral hogs, as well as free-roaming domesticated donkeys, and perhaps an alligator. Take short hikes to Cane Patch Island (site of a large native American shell midden), and on forest and marshside trails.
Boat transportation to Ossabaw Island provided by Captain Mike Neal, Bull River Cruises.
Departure location: Delegal Creek Marina, 1 Marina Drive, The Landings, Skidaway Island.
How to sign up: Register at http://www.ossabawisland.net. or call 912-233-5104. Space is limited. Participants will be emailed detailed trip instructions.
Trips occur “rain or shine.”
What to bring: (You must be able to carry all of your own belongings without assistance)
Bring your own sack lunch and water/beverage.
Bring your own art supplies/materials for the Creative Day Trip.
If you plan to sit while you sketch, paint or write outdoors, please bring a camp stool or camp chair that you can carry without assistance. There are indoor and outdoor tables and chairs available for artmaking at the Club House on the North End of Ossabaw Island.
Visitors must be able to walk up and down steep boat ramps. Trip requires about 1.5 miles of walking, or more if you choose.
Rest rooms and running potable water available on the island.
Some Ossabaw Island items are available on the island for purchase, but there is no food concession.
Tables and chairs to sit and work will be available at the Club House (on the porch, under the trees, or inside) on Ossabaw’s North End.
All minors must be accompanied by supervising adult.
Each visitor must sign a Hold Harmless agreement form; parent/guardian must sign Hold Harmless agreement for each minor.
For more information:
Contact Robin Gunn, Ossabaw Island Foundation Project Coordinator. email@example.com or 912-233-5104. [okay to publish] See http://www.ossabawisland.org for more information on Ossabaw Island. See http://www.ossabawisland.net to register for trips.
ABOUT OSSABAW ISLAND: Ossabaw Island is a 26,000-acre undeveloped barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean, owned by the State of Georgia and located in Chatham County. Georgia’s first Heritage Preserve, accessible only by boat, is undeveloped and set aside by an Executive Order for natural, scientific and cultural study, research and education; and for environmentally sound preservation, conservation and management of the island’s ecosystem.
ABOUT THE OSSABAW ISLAND FOUNDATION: The Ossabaw Island Foundation (TOIF) is a non-profit 501(c)3. Through a partnership with the State of Georgia, TOIF inspires, promotes, and manages exceptional educational, cultural, and scientific programs that are designed to maximize the experience of Ossabaw Island, while minimizing the impact on the island’s resources.
The Ossabaw Island Foundation
305 Fahm Street
Savannah, GA 31401