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Thought Leader Live Healthy, Atlanta!

Show Some Summer Lovin’ to Your Skin

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By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

As Atlanta weather heats up, we head outdoors. We shed our layers, abandon coats for shorts and T-shirts, pack up our boots and don flip-flops instead. Sundresses and seersucker are in vogue during the summer months, and so is another trend anyone can afford – tan, glowing, skin.

Though the concept is foreign now, for thousands of years pale skin was in. Skin unblemished by the sun was the mark of elegance and affluence, and tanned skin wasn’t considered “glowing,” but “weathered.” Tanning only became popular in the 1920s. Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand, is often credited with creating the trend after getting too much sun on her yacht and declaring that “A girl simply has to be tanned.”

When we see sun-kissed skin, we equate it with exercise and activity outdoors. Go easy on the sunscreen in the park or on the river, and you’ll return home with darker skin. Most of us relish a tan, but that’s a mistake. There are more new cases of skin cancer every year than there are of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in life – more than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer annually. For a longer list of hair-raising statistics about skin cancer, please visit SkinCancer.org.

It will take an enormous effort to reverse our cultural affinity for tanning. In 2009, a study found that tanning salons were often as ubiquitous as Starbucks. That’s a shame, considering that the ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted in tanning beds (and by the sun, of course) are considered carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, by the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The American Cancer Society estimates that 3,170 people will die from non-melanoma skin cancers and 9,480 will die from melanoma skin cancers in 2013.

If you’ve been lax about covering up in the sun and eschewed sunscreen, make an appointment to see a dermatologist immediately. The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat. And this summer, skip the tanning trend, and follow these practices to keep your skin healthy and cancer free.

  • Wear sunscreen every day, and apply as often as necessary. This is a good habit to incorporate in your routine regardless of the season. UV rays are still present when snow is on the ground – and snow reflects 85 to 90 percent of the sun’s rays back up at you!

  • Invest in a good hat. A broad brim hat is a fashion statement and great way to protect your skin from the sun.

  • Cover up in the sun. Summer yard work gets hot, and shedding all the clothing we can is understandable. It’s better to purchase a lightweight shirt and avoid the inevitable dark tan or sunburn at the end of the day.

  • Try to avoid direct sunlight when UV rays are the strongest, between 10 AM and 4 PM. Relax in the shade, carry a parasol, or schedule an indoor activity.

  • Do not use tanning beds. Save yourself some cash, now and down the road. Women’s Health put it best when they said “Tanning beds might as well be coffins.” There is no reason to use a tanning bed. Many oncologists believe that tanning beds are the culprit behind increased rates of melanoma in young women.

Who knows? One day, the popularity of tanning may go the way of smoking cigarettes. This summer, be smart, be safe, and help start a new trend of loving on your skin.

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