A golden tan might provide a healthy glow, but this change in pigment is far from healthy for your skin. In fact, sun exposure and indoor tanning are among the top causes of skin cancer. By understanding tanning's affect on your skin and seeking healthy alternatives, you can prevent sun damage and lower your skin cancer risk.
A new set of tan lines may be the goal when you’re lounging on the beach. However, it’s important to understand what’s happening in your skin cells when you get a tan. This change in pigment is your body’s response to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When exposed to UV radiation, the skin produces more melanin to prevent damage to the skin cells. And this melanin is what creates a tan.
Those with lighter skin may not have enough melanin to tan. So, they experience what’s known as a sunburn. When the skin is exposed to UV radiation, the immune system sends more blood flow to the exposed areas. This increase in blood flow, along with distress messages from the skin cells, become the redness and pain that we associate with a sunburn. Severe sunburns can lead to peeling, blistering, swelling, and flu-like symptoms. Some people will experience both sunburns and tans, depending on the level of sun exposure and damage.
While individuals with lighter complexions are at a higher risk for skin cancer, any type of tan is a sign of sun damaged skin. Exposure to UV rays causes damage to the skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. And it’s important to note that indoor tanning poses all the same risks. A single indoor tanning session can increase your risk of melanoma by 20%.
Knowing the risks of tanning, some sun lovers may still be reluctant to give up their summertime glow. Fortunately, you don’t have to. There are plenty of sunless tanning options available. Self-tanning lotions or professional spray tans are typically safe. However, it’s important to talk to your dermatologist if you have any concerns.
When applying a self-tanner or using a sunless tanning booth, be sure to take measures to protect your mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. You should also continue to take precautions in the sun, since sunless tanners typically don’t contain SPF. Apply sunscreen, cover your skin when possible, and stay out of the direct sun whenever you’ll be spending time outdoors.
Even with the most diligent skin cancer prevention measures, occasional excess sun exposure is inevitable. So, it’s essential to take skin care for sun damage seriously. See your dermatologist for annual skin cancer screenings, as early detection is key to eliminating the disease. The doctor will examine your skin for signs of cancer and symptoms of sun damage. They can recommend in-office treatments to address the signs of sun damage, such as sun spots, dryness, freckles, wrinkles, actinic keratoses.
As you enjoy the sunshine this summer, be sure to keep skin cancer prevention in mind. The professionals at Pacific Dermatology Specialists are proud to offer skin cancer screenings, treatments for sun damaged skin, and a number of other cosmetic, medical, and surgical procedures at our six locations. We have offices in Seal Beach, CA and the surrounding communities, so contact us today to book an appointment at a convenient location.