sunless tanners

Everything You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am , by

I hate to admit it, but I have a lot more in common with Tanning Bed Mom and Snooki than you might guess. They say confession is good for the soul, so I’ll just be honest: I am a recovering tanning addict.

When I was a teenager in Tampa, Florida, my friends and I tanned pretty much year round. We’d “lay out” at the first hint of summer, usually in March or earlier, and we devoted way too much time to tanning well into October and November. The Florida heat and humidity were stifling, but we would sweat through it—all in the pursuit of the perfect shade of golden brown. Of course, we got burned a lot, too.

Then tanning salons started popping up everywhere, promising the deepest tan in a lot less time, and we were hooked. Everyone did it. There weren’t any age restrictions yet, and it was a lot harder to burn in 20 minutes under the bulbs than it was in a few hours in the sun. We had no idea that those fake UVA rays from the beds were putting us at serious risk for skin cancer.

All these tan-obsessed memories came rushing back when I heard the news that melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—is on the rise, with women under 40 being the hardest hit. Between 1979 and 2009, melanoma incidence increased eightfold among young women. Many experts are attributing the increase to the popularity of tanning salons.

Thankfully, I’ve let go of my need to tan—the risks just aren’t worth it. Plus, summer is a lot more fun now that a) I don’t waste it just frying on a towel (boring!) and b) I don’t get awful burns anymore. As the long, sunny days of summer loom, here’s your essential guide to sun safety:

The Base Tan Myth
There is no such thing as a healthy tan, even for people who never burn. Besides causing wrinkles and age spots, about 65 percent of melanomas and 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with sun exposure, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

What Happens During a Skin Check
If you’re like me, you’ve probably already done a little damage to your skin. Almost all of us have, which is why skin checks are so important. Check out the video of our health director Julie Bain getting a skin check with her dermatologist to see what it’s like, then schedule your own appointment every year.

Get the Most Out of Your Sunscreen
Grabbing a bottle of SPF 30 isn’t enough. To really protect yourself from sun damage, you need to know what’s in a product and how to apply it.

What It’s Like to Have Skin Cancer
Our health director Julie Bain knows a thing or two about skin cancer—she got her first one in her 20s and she’s had seven more removed since then. Yes, seven! Read her story here.

What Really Happens During Mohs Surgery
I used to think that if I ever got skin cancer, it’d be easy to just have it lopped off like a mole. Find out what really goes on during skin cancer surgery in our slideshow. It’s no piece of cake.

Great Sunless Tanning Products
Still craving a sun-kissed glow? Check out our roundup of the best sunless tanners.