Unlike some students, LSA sophomore Nathan Booth does not find girls with tans appealing.
“Initially girls with tans seem attractive, but then in the back of your mind, you realize they’re going to look like worn leather a few years down the road,” Booth said.
Although a day in the sun produces a tan that lasts only a few weeks, time in the sun can also lead to the appearance of serious consequences later in life.
Mary Alice Worrell, cancer information service manager for the National Cancer Institute, said an estimated 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer.
Skin cancer is divided into two categories, melanoma and non-melanoma, Worrell said. Within the non-melanoma cancers, there is basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
“Basal cell accounts for 90 percent of skin cancer in the United States,” Worrell said. “It seldom spreads to another part. If it invades and destroys tissue, it can be disfiguring.”
“Squamous cell rarely spreads to another part of the body. Melanoma is the most serious. This type of cancer is increasing faster than any other type. It’s doubled in the last 20 years.”
No statistics are currently available for the college age demographic. But Worrell said “between birth and age 39, one of 769 men and one of 508 woman will get melanoma, the most dangerous kind.”
With time, these statistics reverse and men are in greater danger, Worrell said, because women grow more self-conscious and men are more likely to take off their shirts and burn on their heads.
“Skin cancer is the commonest cancer in men across the board,” said Prof. John Vorhees, chair of the dermatology department. He added that if cancer is caught early on, it is treatable.
Booth said people should be more responsible about skin care.
“I think it’s ridiculous that skin cancer is the leading cancer among men, considering that it is the most preventable,” Booth said. “I landscape outdoors during the summer … and generally apply SPF 50 at least a few times every day.
The people with a high risk of suffering from skin cancer are those with blue eyes, blond hair or red hair. They are most likely to “fry in the sun,” Vorhees said.
“Skin cancer is incredibly rare in black people and Indians,” Vorhees said. “The average, darkly-pigmented African-American won’t get skin cancer.”
Most people do not apply sunscreen adequately and also share a common misconception about the benefits of using sunscreen, Vorhees said.
“Virtually everyone thinks the way to go is sunscreen,” Vorhees said. “Sunscreens would be good if they were used correctly and frequently. Sunscreen is the last thing used in skin protection. No one really knows if sunscreen is harmful.”
“You assume you put it on your skin and that’s it,” Vorhees said. “When you slather up in sunscreen, it could be harmful” because very little information is available about the possible harm it can cause.
Both Vorhees and Worrell said most skin damage is done during childhood but does not appear until later in life.
“It’s important to remember with skin cancer, it’s something that develops over time,” Worrell said. “Cancer is a series of mutations occurring over a lifetime. Cancer generally occurs after the age of 50.”
“Sun goes in and breaks DNA,” Vorhees said. “If you bust DNA, mechanisms fix it up. “Every time you go into the sun, you end up with mutations. … Cancer requires many, many mutations in DNA.”
Vorhees recommends people avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as well as sitting in the shade when they are outside and wearing a hat with a huge rim, long sleeves and slacks instead of shorts.
Vorhees said those insisting on going to tanning salons are “paying to get skin cancer” and he urges people to think twice. There is a national movement to ban them but Vorhees thinks it unlikely to happen because tanning is “a huge business with powerful lobbies.”
Local tanning salons were unavailable for comment.