Thursday, May 31, 2012

Four Facts that Could Save Your Life

By Rachael Burbank '09

Burbank before she stopped tanning
Tanning Fact #1:
People who use tanning beds once a month before the age of 35 increase their melanoma risk by 75%
I stood in line at a tanning salon for over an hour once because it was busy. It was three weeks before junior year prom. I sat in a white wicker love seat looking at Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat posters waiting for the sounds of popping door locks knowing my time was closer to get into a tanning bed. Everything inside Sunsational Tan was white: the wicker love seat, the counter girls’ hair, the hallway leading down to the rooms of tanning beds. It reminded me how pale I was, just like the color of the prom dress I begged my mom to get me. As I sat waiting, twenty or so girls gossiped about their prom dates and how their backless dresses couldn’t have tan lines. Then, silence as the counter girls announced the next victim. Lucky girl.

Tanning Fact #2:
Using a tanning bed for 20 minutes is equivalent to spending 1 – 3 hours at the beach with no sun protection at all. Tanning beds put out 3 – 6 times the amount of radiation given off by the sun.

Growing up on the shore of Cape Cod, I spent summers at the beach. I used baby oil like sunscreen, lathing up every other hour waiting to feel my skin tense up to a crisp. My girlfriends and I would set up on the beach sometimes as early as 9 a.m. and position our chairs like a sundial but moving every hour to keep facing the sun's UV rays straight on. I never wanted to be the first one to leave the beach. So when I grew restless, I’d play volleyball or bocce ball making sure each patch of my skin was being caught by the sun while the rest of the girls proudly wore completely different shades from their front to their backs.

Tanning Fact #3:
Melanoma kills one person every hour. It is the second most common cancer for women aged 25-29. Rates for melanoma are increasing faster than nearly all other cancers.

Kohl receiving treatment
There was an hour on November 20, 2008 dedicated to Glenna Kohl; she was 26. Glenna was a vegetarian, she did yoga, hiked, jogged, and rowed regularly. She was just 5-foot-3 and 105 pounds, yet she was strong enough to work as a beach lifeguard five summers in a row only protecting her skin with SPF 4. To maintain her copper glow, Glenna booked time at tanning salons, baking under a sunlamp as often as once a week. As health-conscious as Glenna was, she didn't connect tanning with skin cancer, let alone it’s most deadly form, melanoma. Let alone at 22 years old.

Tanning Fact #4:
For most people, 5 – 10 minutes of unprotected sun 2 – 3 times a week is enough to help your skin make Vitamin D, which is essential for your health. Getting more sun won’t increase your Vitamin D level, but it will increase your risk of skin cancer. Vitamin D also comes from orange juice, milk, fish and supplements.

I bought a sunhat. No, not just celebrities wear them. My tanned friends probably get anxious when we go to the beach now because I pass around SPF 30 and make sure each of them applies it. Then I do it again 2-3 hours later, like their mom. I’m not taking the risk. I have a lot of moles on my skin and it’s difficult to watch them all and see if they change size, shape and color. I may have put my skin in danger when I was younger, but I wasn’t aware when I was 16 years old. Now at 25, I’m not ashamed of saving myself and my friends from sunburns or skin damage. I’m proud. Now my friends send me messages excited to tell me they wore sunscreen and when they don't, they warn me of their sunburns because they know I'll lecture them. And I'm proud my friends are as aware as I am of sun safety practices.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month but throughout the entire year, The Glenna Kohl Fund for Hope raising awareness to the dangers of melanoma and the importance of early detection and prevention of this deadly disease. 

Burbank '09 volunteers as the social media manger for The Glenna Kohl Fund for Hope. Follow her at @GlennasFund or She is also the Alumni Relations Coordinator at Pacific University.

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