Despite health risks, the desire to maintain a glowing
tan is increasing as more and more people use artificial tanning sun beds.
Ashlee Slagoski, a freshman majoring in accounting and
business administration, is one of many students who artificially tan.
“Tanning relaxes me and relieves stress, but I do
believe there are health risks associated with excessive amounts of tanning,”
Jim Zach, the Medical Director at the University of Wisconsin
– Stevens Point, finds it interesting that studies show tanning has the ability
to make an individual feel good.
“Troublesome to the prevention of complications are
studies that find many people feel better when they use tanning beds. UV and
sunlight do have beneficial effects for people, but they need to be in
moderation,” Zach said.
Among the many students who artificially tan, a student
on campus who wishes to remain anonymous is personally familiar with the risks.
“I was told by a family doctor that I had to get my
skin looked at in December. In January, I had an appointment with a
dermatologist, and while there, they found two sites that were abnormal or
cancerous and had to be removed. When I got my test results back, one of the
sites was benign, but the other came back as the pre-stages of melanoma,” she
One site was on her back and the other over her left
rib cage. Her doctor was able to remove all of the tissue needed so that a
second appointment was not required when she got her test results back.
“I am very grateful that she did this because otherwise
a second appointment would have been needed, and the experience would have been
worse than what it was. Now the cancerous tissue is gone,” she said.
The student does not go tanning anymore. She says that
she will never step into a tanning salon again, and she’s okay with that.
“I used to go tanning about three to four times a week.
I was aware that there were health risks to tanning, but because I hadn’t heard
of any of my friends experiencing any negative effects, I guess I just thought
that I was invincible to the health risks. After what has happened, I now
believe that there are health risks to tanning,” she said.
She liked to go tanning for the same reasons as
everyone else. It was a way to relieve stress and made her feel good.
“I thought I looked good with a little color, but my
advice is—don’t do it,” she said.
Her doctor had her entire family tested, and she now
has to go in every couple years for checkups.
“I am blessed and thankful that it was only the
pre-stages and that it hadn’t gotten to the point of what it could have been.
It is still uncomfortable, knowing that I potentially could have had a very
serious, non-curable cancer had I not gone to the doctor when I did,” she said.
Sue Pederson, a licensed nurse practitioner on campus,
doesn’t think that anyone should use tanning beds.
“They are simply a more intense way of receiving
harmful UV rays. The potential for skin damage from tanning leading to skin
cancer is high,” Pederson said.
There are a few alternatives to sun bed tanning, such
as spray tans. Although spray tans may give off harsh chemicals, they don’t
emit any UV radiation.
Over the last 34 years, Zach has cared for half a dozen
patients in their twenties with early melanoma.
Zach says some sun exposure is valuable for Vitamin D
production, but fair-skinned people get enough Vitamin D within twenty to
“My physician once told me that anyone who is
fair-haired, blonde and blue-eyed and has a sunburn before the age of eighteen
runs the risk of getting skin cancer 10 times greater than someone else,”
Pederson recommends using sunscreen at all times. If
you start to get pink, get out of the sun.
“Anyone who notices a change in a mole should also see
their physician, regardless of age,” Pederson said. “It doesn’t hurt to have
something checked, but it may hurt to wait.”