Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tanning beds, aging, & vitamin D

Tanning beds are pretty common even in a sunny place like Vegas, but apparently they outnumber McDonald's and Starbucks locations in some cities. And despite the warnings about the heightened risk of skin cancer from UV radiation, plenty of people still use them.

I spent a fair amount of time in tanning beds, especially back in the first half of the 90s when I was going on cruises almost every year. I wish I could have those hours back now, lol... I'm sure they did not help my skin. I wear SPF 45+ sunscreen when out in the summer sun these days. It's important to wear a broad spectrum UVA/UVB formula as I've read that UVA, long considered to be the "good rays," may actually be more likely to cause the type of damage that can lead to skin cancer. From a June 2007 article in NewScientist:
While sunburn is mostly caused by the part of the ultraviolet spectrum known as UVB, there's growing evidence linking melanomas to UVA. Older sunscreens allowed people to stay out in the sun longer without burning but provided little protection against UVA, so they increased people's exposure to these wavelengths.

If UVA really is responsible for melanoma, a whole generation may have been misled into thinking sunscreens allowed them to soak up the rays with impunity. Lawyers in the US have filed a class action lawsuit against a number of sunscreen makers alleging that labels such as "sunblock" are misleading, because the products do not "block" the whole UV spectrum and often imply equal UVA and UVB protection.
Unlike the people quoted in the tanning bed article, however, I'm still a believer that exposure to some natural sunlight each day is the best way to get enough vitamin D.

And if you've overindulged in the sun (or those pesky tanning beds), some early research suggests that skin peels of damaged tissue may head off skin cancers.

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