Getting a healthy tan is a contradiction. Tans are not healthy.
Still, million of Americans put looks ahead of health, and head to tanning facilities as the holidays draw near.
As the holiday travel season approaches, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is reminding residents to protect themselves throughout the colder months from exposure to ultraviolent rays and tanning.
The best protection against skin cancer is to reduce exposure to natural ultraviolet light and avoid tanning beds.
"The idea of getting a 'base tan' before going on vacation is a myth and instead, can increase one's risk of cancer. If not found early, melanomas can spread to other parts of the body and can be deadly," said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the MDCH.
"Obviously the main time for sun exposure is in the summer, but we also want to remind people taking winter vacations that they risk serious health consequences if they don't protect their skin," Dr. Davis said in a statement.
Science has shown that no matter the source, sunlight or tanning bed, ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin cancer.
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is expected to be diagnosed in 76,690 people in the U.S. in 2013 - and will kill an estimated 9,480.
In Michigan, according to 2010 data, melanoma of the skin is the number one ranked cancer in females, ages 20-29, and number two ranked cancer in females ages 30-39.
"Also, the use of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more is recommended for travelers going to areas where they will be spending extended periods with direct sun exposure," Davis added.
Skin cancer is a largely preventable condition.
Michigan residents are encouraged to protect their skin with sunscreen and cover up with protective clothing when traveling, for both themselves and their children. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, the following proportions of youth report indoor tanning:
- 13 percent of all high school students.
- 21 percent of high school girls.
- 32 percent of girls in the 12th grade.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 65 to 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light.
For those under the age of 35, tanning beds can increase the risk of getting melanoma by 59 percent.
UV rays from indoor tanning and other sources is cumulative over time.
The earlier a person starts tanning, the greater the risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers later in life.
Additionally, the World Health Organization classifies ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds as a Group One carcinogen, the same as cigarettes.
Other risk factors for melanoma are family history of skin cancer, fair skin, and certain types of moles as well as a large number of moles.
See your doctor if you have concerns.