Want a tan? Get the info first

There’s nothing wrong with being tan, but people need to consider the risks.

May is just around the corner, which to 20-somethings means much more than flowers. It means being seen baring as much skin as the weather allows. A good tan has long seemed a must for women and is becoming more so for men. While there’s nothing wrong with being tan, people need to get the necessary information and consider if the risks are worth the benefits.

Assuming one feels a need to tan, the options are tanning naturally, using a tanning bed and applying a self-tanning lotion. Natural tanning is relatively safe, assuming limited exposure as well as proper use of sunscreen or sun block. Unfortunately, given those assumptions, natural tanning is a time-consuming project with inconsistent results.

On the other hand, tanning beds seem considerably more dangerous. There is a lack of adequate medical research studying the long-term effects of tanning beds, which are a relatively new phenomenon. Still, new studies released by the American Cancer Society found that tanning bed users are respectively 250 percent and 150 percent more likely to develop two types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, compared to those who did not use tanning beds.

Recently, a safer option – self-tanning lotion – is becoming more popular. The upsides are no increased danger of cancer compared to nonusers, while the downsides are difficulty in applying the lotions consistently and a tendency of these lotions to produce a more orange hue instead of the desired brown. Users must also be careful in choosing the tanning lotions – self-tanners with dihydroxyacetone are completely safe, but other products such as tan accelerators that might use bergapten can be toxic and are cancer-causing.

All of this assumes there is a need to have tan skin. Like with beauty in general, the worth of a good tan is all about preference. Admittedly the general societal preference is toward tanning, even given the increased risk of skin cancer. Even when people decide to acquiesce to this preference, they must know the risks and give proper weight to the long-term effects of their actions.