Leisurely exposing oneself to the sun’s mighty rays is a staple of the Sunshine State.
But when the effects of tanning begin to raise a sun lover’s risk of cancer, it makes some think twice about going under the rays.
Sun damage is caused by ultraviolet radiation, specifically UVA and UVB rays. These two types may age, burn, cause some skin cancers or darken the skin.
Despite the sun’s damaging effects, students enjoy laying out on the volleyball courts by Mahoney/Pearson, playing outdoors sports and lounging by the lake.
April Neuman, a senior, enjoys Florida weather, which is much sunnier than where she lived in Ohio.
“It’s really cloudy where I’m from, and here I usually study while I lay out, which allows me to multitask,” Neuman said.
Amanda Thompson, an alumna from the class of 2007 who tans about three times a week, believes that the sun’s rays make her more active and keep her spirits up.
Thompson may be right: The sun has been proven to make people happier.
“It’s known that the [tanning] hormone has several parts and that one of them is an opiate-like compound,” said Dr. Robert Kirsner, a professor and vice chairman of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the Miller School of Medicine. “People get out in the sun and they feel good. It’s a feeling of euphoria.”
Kirsner said the euphoria is the “flip-side” of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD usually affects people living in northern climates during the winter.
“It seems to be an addictive behavior like alcohol or smoking, although we don’t know if it’s as strong,” Kirsner said.
Tanning may be the next addiction added to a list that already includes alcoholism and smoking. But Neuman, who tans two or three times a week, begs to differ.
“It’s more of a want than a need,” Neuman said. “I don’t have to tan.”
Thompson emphasized that part of the reason she came to UM was the sunny weather.
“I’ve always thought that tanning was included in the tuition,” she said sarcastically.
Both Neuman and Thompson use sunscreen protection while out in the sun, in addition to moisturizers with a sun protection factor of 15.
However, several recent studies have shown that chemicals in sunscreens appear to mimic estrogen’s potentially harmful effects, raising concern among breast cancer survivors whose cancers were fed by estrogen.
So, what should students do if their attraction to UM is sunny weather?
“It is critical to be sun-smart,” Kirsner said. “That means planning outdoor activities at times other than peak sun-exposure times and using sunscreen on a regular basis.”
Despite the negative aspects of sun exposure, senior Ashley Cicconi still believes occasional visits to the beach are a must: “It’s a good time and it’s fun to do, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Alcione Gonzalez may be contacted at email@example.com.
Eight nutrients to improve skin
Green tea: Provides amino acids.
Red wine: Promotes blood flow.
Omega-3s: Helps maintain cell membranes; acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Vitamin E: Guards against UV radiation damage; found in wheat germ, avocado, fortified cereals, nuts and seeds.
Beta carotene/Vitamin A: Involved with growth and skin-tissue repair.
Vitamin C: Involved in collagen production and protects cells from free-radical damage.
Selenium: Safeguards skin from sun damage and increases elasticity; found in Brazil nuts, tuna and crab.
Grains: Whole-grains better than refined.
Compiled by Karyn Meshbane from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.