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Are You Tanning Too Much?

For many of us, one of the great aspects of summertime is getting out into the sun and adding a nice bronze hue to our skin tone. It's an especially nice perk for pasty, pale Northerners such as myself who spend six-plus months of the year hidden inside from the cold and bitter winter.

But in our quest to bring color to our complexions, we need to be very careful.

The potential dangers of tanning have been stated and repeated frequently by physicians and health experts in the past, but the movement has been gaining steam recently. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would require sunlamp products (i.e. tanning booths) to carry warning labels, upgrading the devices from class I (low-risk) to class II (moderate-risk). As the FDA's press release pointed out, people who have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning experience a 59 percent increase in risk for the deadly skin cancer melanoma. 

Now, the United States Surgeon General is joining this movement, calling out skin cancer as a "major public health problem," with indoor and outdoor tanning being among the chief contributors. 

As the Surgeon General points out, it isn't as though we all need to barricade ourselves in the house all summer. But take steps to protect your skin. Apply sunscreen and avoid prolonged periods of time under the hot sun. 

As for indoor tanning... well, we just can't really recommend that. Studies have continually illuminated the dangers of this activity, which exposes your body directly to those harmful UV rays. At the very least, you should limit your time in the booth, and minors should avoid it altogether.

The short-term benefit of extensive tanning -- namely, a darker and perhaps more attractive complexion -- is outweighed by the long-term perils, which include the possibility of dried out, cracking skin later in life as well as heavily increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Be very careful in your tanning habits and keep those very real dangers in mind.  

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