Tanning still popular despite risks

Valerie Herz

For years tanning has been associated with beauty and health. The desire for glowing bronze skin has only expanded as our nation obsesses over celebrities.

Villanova is no exception to this rule. With spring break in the rear view mirror and summer at our feet, Villanova’s obsession with tanning increases as the temperatures heat up.

“A lot of tanning goes on here at Villanova” Mary Agnes Ostick, MSN, CRNP, nurse practitioner at the Villanova Student Health Center said. “This is a body image issue. Good decision making is trumped by the desire to look perfect. Indoor tanning creates a false sense of security that they [students] can’t get melanoma, which is so untrue.”

The contradiction in logic lies here: while students are seeking physical perfection, they are in a sense injuring their skin by tanning. Common sense tells us that over-exposure to the sun produces fine lines and wrinkles as well as the possibility of developing skin cancer. In the long run, abuse of the sun and tanning beds damages the appearance that women are tirelessly working to achieve today.

“Villanova students are informed but ignore the information given to them. Tanning is a risky behavior,” Ostick said. She compared the risks of tanning to the risks associated with drinking and sex, areas in which students also see the dangers but seem not to care.

“You hear and understand this information, but Villanovans choose to continue to tan,” she said. “Where is this disconnect between knowledge and action?”

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, recent studies have revealed that ultraviolet light exposure from indoor tanning can be just as harmful as actual sun exposure. This reaffirms the dangers of tanning which Villanovans (like many Americans) know but choose to disregard. The Academy’s recent study is summarized on their website.

“The indoor tanning light source used in the study emitted 95 percent UVA, the type of UV radiation that penetrates more deeply into the skin,” Dr. Whitmore, associate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, was quoted as saying.

“The remaining five percent of light was UVB, the type of UV radiation that affects the epidermis,” he said. “However, most salons bulbs still provide a significant amount of UVB radiation, in eaddition to UVA. Both types of ultraviolet light, whether from sunlight or indoor tanning light, cause various types of damage in the skin that may lead to skin cancer and should be avoided.”

David Labar is owner of Metropolitans, a popular tanning salon frequently visited by Villanova students.

“The majority of our cliental comes from Villanova students,” he said. “Indoor tanning is absolutely safer than sunbathing because this is a controlled environment. If you burn in here, it’s because you went in [a tanning bed] for too long. It’s when you abuse the beds and have prolonged sun exposure that you put yourself at risk.”

Labar emphasizes the benefits of indoor tanning, specifically its ability to stimulate Vitamin D production and provide therapy for osteoporosis.

In February 2006 Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) introduced the Tanning Accountability and Notification Act (TAN Act- H.R. 4767). The TAN-Act would order the Food and Drug Administration to establish whether the existing labels of indoor tanning beds and booths provide adequate information about the associated risks and dangers of indoor tanning.

Recognizing the risks to a generation of women whose perception of beauty is intertwined with a potentially dangerous activity, campus health officials and government agencies continue to urge the avoidance of the sun and artificial tanning.

Beauty today may easily be gone tomorrow if women continue to ignore the risks associated with tanning. Beautiful, soft and firm skin can become tough, leathery and wrinkled.

In the pursuit of perfection, irreversible damage can be done, and in the end, women may be stuck asking themselves if it was worth it.