Tracy Shaffer: To tan or not to tan

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Spring is slowly on its way. I think it is taking its time getting here. Soon, people will be outdoors enjoying the long-awaited sunshine. Some will be indoors preparing for the long-awaited sunshine. They will be tanning at tanning salons. Depending on who you talk to or what you read, you will find out good things and bad things about tanning beds.

We all have heard of UV rays. For a refresher, I will remind you what UV and UVB stands for. UV is ultraviolet light. UV rays are the light that penetrate our skin and makes our skin tan. UVB are the rays that burn us.

A tanning bed or sun lamp gives off three times more UV rays than the sun does. Although tanning beds give off 40 percent less UVB rays than the sun, some would argue that is too much. Tanning beds can control the exposure time of the UVB rays compared to being out in the sun all day with no time limit.

So that's a positive thing.

A study once proved tanning beds are a major factor in the development of malignant melanoma. They concluded that the people who used tanning beds more than 10 times a year were seven times more likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who did not use tanning beds as often. I read that and thought, "Oh no." I tan 10 times in 2 weeks. Okay, that's a bad thing. It was estimated that by the year 2000, the risk of developing skin cancer for those who did not use tanning beds would be one out of every 97 persons, and the chances for those who did use tanning beds would be 1 out of every 13 persons.

The study also concluded melanoma risks are increased by 300 percent for those using tanning beds occasionally and that the risks increase by 800 percent for those who use tanning beds more than 10 times a year. Why did I have to know that just before summer?

Looking tan makes you feel good and look healthy. Are we fooling ourselves? Our skin was not meant to tan. Not really. Every time we tan, we damage our skin. I admit I have gone many times to a tanning salon, even worked at a few. I like being tan, but not to the point where I go all year long.

Some people have asked if they can tan more than once a day?

No!

Let me tell you what I did about 10 years ago. I knew better, but I wanted to get just a little more of a tan. I was down by the river laying in the sun for a few hours and swimming a bit. The afternoon thunder clouds rolled in, so I went home. I saw it was still early enough, so I drove to the tanning salon and jumped in the bed for a quick 15-minute session. I drove home and it hit me. I had to lie down, I was so sleepy. I felt sick and very hot and tired.

The hospital was called and it was recommended I drink something with electrolytes and sit in a cold tub pouring cold water on my head. Let me tell you, it was cold. That is the last time I did something like that.

I am sure you have all seen people that over-do the tanning. They look like walking leather. I admit, I tried to get that tan in my younger days. I just cannot get that dark.

I tan only to a certain point, and then I do not get any darker. This is a good thing actually. Like I need anymore wrinkles as I get older. I just want some color on me so my legs don't glow when I wear shorts. So, here I am as white as ever, wondering if I will tan again before summer gets here.

I think I will, even though I know the good and bad about tanning. I will tell you one thing, if you see me at the river one day; you won't see me at the tanning salon the same day.

Just like everything these days, you can read the facts and then make your decision. Tanning salons have a good and bad side. I want some sun on me, so is it better to control the amount in a tanning bed, or stay outside and get burned before I even realize it?

I will take my chances again this year. Now it's time to see who has the best deal in town on tanning packages.

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