In July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the World Health Organization, added ultraviolet (UV) radiation-emitting tanning devices – tanning beds and lamps – to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. It joins an assembly of hazardous substances including plutonium and certain types of radium, as well as radiation from the sun.
The IARC report cited research showing that tanning is especially hazardous to young people; those who use sunbeds before age 30 increase their lifetime risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 75 percent. The authors also pointed to studies showing a link between UV radiation from indoor tanning devices and melanomas of the skin and eyes. Melanoma will kill an estimated 8,650 people in the US this year alone. And melanoma isn’t the only problem: people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma kills an estimated 2,500 Americans a year.
I am absolutely convinced that people do not appreciate the tenacity and seriousness of cancer. There seems to be a it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude that pervades society. Or maybe quacks have lulled people into a false sense of security. Just take some garlic, laxatives, and a little black elderberry and you’ll be fine! For Christ’s sake. I recently developed a small splotch on my nose. It wasn’t a blackhead and it didn’t go away after a couple of weeks, so I made an appointment to get it checked out (alongside a physical). I figured it was nothing given its color and shape, but why take risks? It matters how quickly these things are identified. It turned out, as I figured, to be nothing more than a new freckle (probably a result of my time in Haiti or some of the nicer days we had not too long ago). I’m fine this time, but who knows about next time? I’m not somehow magically exempt from how biology works. Neither is anyone else. I am, however, exempt from a 75% increase in getting melanoma. Also, think about this: