There’s No Such Thing as a Healthy Tan
Or is it?
Edward H. Nessel, R.Ph, M.S., MPH, PharmD.
no such thing as a healthy tan. Recently, several public health
organizations have reported that malignant melanoma, the most deadly
type of skin cancer, is spreading in epidemic proportions throughout
our population. These reports have come from the American Cancer
Society, the American Dermatological Association, the Centers for
Disease Control, and the Skin Cancer Foundation. All of these
organizations have claimed with alarm that skin cancer is on the
rise. One of the most significant statistics is the increase of
occurrence in young adults. These concerns are particularly
important for many Masters swimmers, who spend a considerable amount
of time swimming in the sun. Fortunately, there are several simple
methods of protecting ourselves against overexposure to harmful
one time, malignant melanoma was a type of cancer that affected
aging adults who had spent many years in the sun. It was originally
thought to be purely the result of years and years of sun exposure.
Now it appears in the younger population. Increasing numbers of
fair-skinned, young adults are being diagnosed. Melanoma is often
one of the most unpredictable types of cancer. It has also been
known to spread to deadly proportions in the body in just a matter
of weeks. Today, early detection and treatment allow for a good
of us have heard reports about the declining ozone layer and its
decreasing ability to protect us from ultraviolet (UV) exposure.
What once caused the average person to get a sunburn with 60-90
minutes of midday exposure has been magnified to where 15-30 minutes
will do harm. Additionally, it is the repeated exposure that may
cause the most damage.
precautions can help. Apply a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF (sun
protection factor) of at least 15. The higher the number, the better
the protection up to a point. The sunscreen needs to be on the skin
for no less than 20 minutes before sun exposure to allow the active
ingredients to penetrate into the deep layers. The SPF number
theoretically gives a rough approximate number of "safe"
minutes allowed in the sun…if you normally burn in 15 minutes, an
SPF of 15 should then protect you for 15 times that number, or 225
minutes. But that is not what happens in the real world. Depending
on the sun’s position in the sky and time of year, the actual
amount of protection could be much less. No matter how good the SPF
in the sunscreen, after about 90 minutes, the amount of protection
is suspect. It is a good idea to reapply the lotion after swimming
and perspiring, and to only allow a maximum exposure of 90 minutes
at the sun‘s peak (10AM to 2PM). A new application does not
necessarily allow for a complete carefree re-exposure to the sun’s
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