Call Ed: Here comes the (artificial) sun

With Spring Break upon us, TKC decided to focus on tanning beds for Call Ed. This issue, 67 percent of TKC staff (56/83) voted tanning beds should be banned for anyone under the age of 18 by law; however, 94 percent of TKC staff (73/78) voted tanning beds should not be used in general.

At KHS, 12 percent (32/262) of KHS students have engaged in an activity The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) puts into its highest cancer risk category — sharing the same categorization as hazardous substances like plutonium and some types of radium. And, according to Missouri law, minors only need to be 17 to participate without parental consent. It isn’t something along the lines of a radioactive spill; it’s tanning beds.

Our vote was close to being split on banning tanning beds for anyone under 18 (the legal side) purely because if someone has all risks explained to them and still consent, who are we to tell them what to do with their bodies? On the flip-side, in Missouri, you can tan indoors without parental consent at 17 but can’t buy cigarettes until 18, even though both arguably pose the same cancerous threat to humans. Likewise, we wholeheartedly believe tanning beds shouldn’t be used, in general, due to the proven carcinogenic hazard they pose. If something obviously terrible, like skin cancer, can be avoided, then it should be.

Approximately 23 states have passed (or are attempting to pass) legislation explicitly banning tanning beds for anyone under 18 in 2014-2015, according to the AIM at Melanoma Foundation. As of this December, according to CNN, the FDA is one step closer to following suit and prohibiting tanning bed use by minors, which they have recently proposed. This would include signing a risk acknowledgment form before someone’s first session with a new one every six months. Specifically, using tanning beds before age 30, even once, increases the risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, by 75 percent. Furthermore, according to the FDA, additional risks include premature aging, immune suppression, eye damage and allergic reactions.

In the modern era, the epitome of the American beauty standard has shifted to blond-haired, blue-eyes and tan.”

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, women aged 18 to 39 are now eight times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than just 40 years ago, partly due to tanning beds. Honestly, that number makes sense. In the modern era, the epitome of the American beauty standard has shifted to blond-haired, blue-eyes and tan. A tan easily adds confidence, especially when it’s an ideal commonly projected on women.

Tanning didn’t become popular until the 1920s when Coco Chanel famously declared, “A girl simply has to be tanned.” Until then, pale skin displayed wealth — it meant that person had enough money to not work outside. Now, the ideal is pushed so intensely that people are willing climb into the equivalent of a metal coffin to look a specific way.

Some people go in to tanning beds blind, not aware of the possible ramifications. Too often the phrase, “It’s the same as the sun,” is said in relation to tanning beds (side note: light emitted from indoor tanning is 10-15 times stronger than the midday sun). It’s one thing to be aware of the risks and proceed — it’s your body, your choice — but another to be completely misled. In addition, if you really want a tan there are alternatives. Tanning lotion and spray tans may not be the real deal, but they definitely don’t give you cancer, either.

While our recommendation is to completely avoid tanning beds (your skin will thank you), if you do choose to use one, educate yourself on the risks and decide if that’s something you want. As cliche as it sounds, don’t assume it’s not going to be you who gets skin cancer. And if cancer doesn’t deter you, maybe the premature aging will do you in.