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The Detriment of the Integument System

Recent findings about the risks associated with the use of tanning beds and the incidence of skin cancers have hit the news.  The WHO (World Health Organization) and the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) have added UV radiation-emitting tanning devices (beds and lamps) as the most dangerous forms of cancer causing radiation.

The risk of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – has been found to  increase by 75% for those individuals under 30 years of age. Why this age group and not older?  The reason is that the younger population use it as a means to darken the skin in order to appear darker-skined which has been considered appealing in the eyes of teens and young adults.  They frequent the tanning beds more often than older adults and therefore expose themselves to the dangers of UV radiation on the skin.

Tanning began as an unintentional trend back in 1923 when the fashion icon, Coco Chanel, became overly exposed to the sun while sleeping on-deck of a yacht while sailing in the South of France.  At the time of this incident, women protected themselves from the sun using parasols and covering up as much of their exposed skin in order to protect themselves from getting burned.  (http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/sun-care/spray-tanning/.htm)

The skin is the largest organ of the body.  It is responsible for protecting deeper tissues from injury.  It regulates body temperature and has excretory and absorbing functions.  Knowing this about skin, how does burning it to a point of discoloration affect your health?  Today, this is known to happen when human skin is exposed to UV rays.  The sun can cause unhealthy changes to your skin, dehydrate your body and cause cancer.  There are other things to consider when exposed to UV light such as medications that make the skin and eyes more sensitive to sunlight.  A brief list includes acne medicines, antibiotics, antihistamines, oral contraceptives and sulfa drugs.  The tanning industry misleads the public about these health risks which has led organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics to ban tanning beds and lamps being used by individuals under 18 years of age. (www.skincancer.org)

In lieu of tanning beds and lamps,  if each of us took a walk in the early morning sunshine for about 1 hour, it benefits the human body with Vitamin D needed for healthy bones and for the absorption of calcium.  However, beyond this amount requires applying at least an SPF 30 sunblock and “limiting” your time of sun exposure by moving into the shade, wearing a hat and sunglasses.

May has been designated as “Skin Cancer Awareness Month” by the US Government.  Congressman Jim Gerlach of the 6th District within my beautiful community of Chester County, Pennsylvania, has supported the FDA initiative on sun safety and has provided the following FDA intervention:

“….the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new requirements for over-the-counter sunscreen labels in June 2011, which will be effective starting this summer.  These labeling requirements will ensure that the standards for safety and effectiveness are met and consumers like yourself can make an informed decision when purchasing sunscreen.  While prior rules on sunscreens focused exclusively on ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation to protect against sunburn, those rules did not address ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which contributes to skin cancer and early skin aging. As a result, FDA established a “broad spectrum” to establish that a given sunscreen provides proportional UVA and UVB protection.” 

Another way to safeguard against skin cancer is by getting a full body check by a dermatologist.    A yearly visit is all that is necessary to keep a professional’s eye on skin changes.  WebMD.com has pictures on the appearance of different skin cancers.   This information is valuable in assisting you with your own assessments in between the yearly visits to the dermatologist.

        

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