Summer in full swing means tanning, possible skin damage on rise

July 6, 2011 at 2:06 a.m.
Updated July 7, 2011 at 2:07 a.m.

Guidelines describing skin type and recommended tanning times are listed on a tanning bed at Tandora's Shop.

Guidelines describing skin type and recommended tanning times are listed on a tanning bed at Tandora's Shop.

Almost anyone would want to achieve that summer fun-in-the-sun look and that's what Kristen Hermes is after.

The 18-year-old Victoria woman tries to keep a good tan during the summer months and usually visits Tandora's Shop to use its tanning salon.

"I do it for vacations or big trips," she said after a 20-minute tan.

Today, sunbathing outdoors, making an appointment at the nearest tanning salon or even spray tanning exist to achieve the lively, rich shade of bronze.

But what are the dangers of tanning?

Skin damage does exist when using indoor and outdoor tanning, said Shannon Henneke, owner of Tandora's Shop.

But the real problem lies in the education of those who are not familiar with tanning, she said.

"Tanning in Texas is state regulated," said Henneke, who also owns six other tanning salons in Victoria County.

Tanning bed and sun lamps have been labeled as known carcinogens by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Under Texas law, a teenager under 16 years old is banned from tanning and those between 16 and 18 years old must have parental consent. Also, Texas must supply eyewear and limit the length of time a person can tan.

At least 115 people per 100,000 in Victoria County between 1998 and 2008 got melanoma, and 16 per 100,000 during the same time period died, according to the Texas Cancer Registry.

Texas is one of the more strict states in dealing with indoor tanning.

The law also requires adequate warning signs, which is evident in Tandora's Shop.

"Medically, neither is safer," she said. "Who is to say skin cancer is not caused by processed foods. It's a roll of the dice."

Limiting the amount of time someone can tan and doing a quick check on whether a person's skin can tan is an adequate preventative measure to somewhat decrease the risk of skin damage and possibly skin cancer.

If a person cannot tan, Tandora recommends spray tanning.

"Anything in moderation the state says is what's OK to a point," she said.

Henneke has some occasional tanners and year-round tanners. Having a regulated tanning time seems safer than heading out to the beach and sunbathing.

Outdoor tanning cannot be regulated, and those people are the ones you see most burned, she said.

Tanning helps you feel better about yourself, Hermes said.

"It helps with my skin," she said.

The most common benefit, Henneke has noticed, is the increased self-esteem.

Also, tanning can help hide acne and even out the skin tone.

Dr. Ahmad Qadri, a Victoria oncologist, does not see many patients with skin cancer but believes moderation and education is key to smart tanning.

"Tanning, as long as it's done in the right manner with protection, it's OK," he said. "Without protection, it can really damage the skin."

The four more common cancers are lung, breast, prostate and colon. These are also the most deadly.

Texas ranks fourth in the nation for the most newly diagnosed cases of melanoma and one in three Texans will get skin cancer over the course of their lifetime, according to the Texas Oncology organization.

Skin cancer is usually seen in a melanoma or non-melanoma, which appears as a mole with a strange shape, coloring or texture.

Most melanomas can be cured quickly.

"They have surgery done and most of the time they get the melanomas killed in surgery alone," Qadri said.

Henneke, who tans, said she understands the risks, as do the clients who walk through her door.

Still, she feels moderation and education is key.

"I think it's safer to tan a little bit through the year indoors than to go out into the sun so you're not volcano red and burning three layers of your skin," Henneke said. "I think there are many benefits to this."



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