The Hidden Dangers of Tanning

Think you've heard it all when it comes to the dangers of the sun? Sure, you know that tanning salons are unhealthy, and you should avoid the sun during peak hours and wear sunscreen. But that's just the start—and what you don't know can literally kill you.

There are over one million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in this country each year, with nearly one in five people expected to get skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the skin cancer foundation. "People don't realize that it's one of the most common forms of cancer," says Dr. Ronald Moy, director of dermatology at the California Health and Longevity Institute. "And really, it's preventable."

To practice prevention, start by conquering these dangerous habits you may not even realize you're guilty of... 


Dangerous Behavior: Not Wearing Sunscreen Everyday

Why we do it: Your morning routine is hectic as it is, plus you sit in a cubicle everyday and leave well after the sun sets. What's the point?

Consider this: Even if you work indoors, warns Dr. Moy, you're in the sun more than you realize. He notes that the majority of his patients who develop cancer on their faces or arms have it on their left side. Why? "In southern California, we sit in traffic on the freeway for an hour each morning." That morning sun is penetrating your driver's side window and finding its way into your skin.


Dangerous Behavior: Going to the Tanning Salon for a Quick Fix

Why we do it: Sure, it's bad for me, but it's only a few times before a big wedding or event and I want to look my best in the photos. Plus it's better than getting burned in the sun.

Consider this: Dr. Moy says tanning beds are possibly the biggest cause of melanoma. "It's such an intense light that goes deeper, and it's impossible to repair the damage."

What's more, he warns, the tanning salon industry is big business in this country, so myths about their safety are perpetuated. Don't believe them! "There's nothing worse from a dermatological standpoint," he stresses.


Dangerous Behavior: Sunning for Good Health's Sake

Why we do it: The sun provides Vitamin D, which is good for me. I'm always hearing that 20 minutes of sunlight a day is healthy.

Consider this: "It's hard to be Vitamin D deficient in this country. There aren't people walking around with Rickets," says Dr. Moy. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to be a hermit, he adds, since fun in the sun when practiced safely can have other benefits, both psychological and fitness-oriented. "The best reason to enjoy the outdoors is for sports and activities."

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