IS BEING TAN WORTH DYING FOR? PERSPECTIVES ON BEAUTY FROM A MELANOMA SURVIVOR
Huntsman Cancer Institute
I used to be one of the girls who believed tan skin is more beautiful. I used tanning beds. I laid out at the pool without reapplying sunscreen.
If I could, I would beg my younger self to do things differently. I would shout to her what I shout to the world now: Don’t buy the lie that your value and power depend on your looks. Life is much too precious to be cut short by skin cancer. That is abundantly clear after being diagnosed with melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—at age 29.
While I would’ve chosen to be anywhere else on my birthday in 2014, I was at Huntsman Cancer Institute for a pre-surgery appointment. A few days later, I had surgery to remove a large area of my thigh and three lymph nodes that could spread cancer throughout my body.
Fortunately I am now considered cancer-free. Huntsman Cancer Institute is incredible; my nurses and doctors were skilled and put my mind at ease. I will be visiting them every six months for a long time to make sure melanoma doesn’t creep up on me again. But now I feel even more of a responsibility to shout from the rooftops that tan skin is not worth dying for.
The incidence of melanoma in young adults is sky high, with a six-fold increase in the past 40 years. The rise is by far most noteworthy in young women ages 18-39, where the incidence of melanoma increased eight-fold from 1970-2009, while it increased just four-fold in men.
This is a significant gender-specific finding. There are lots of factors to be taken into consideration regarding the increase in diagnoses, but in the work I do with my twin sister Lindsay through our nonprofit organization, Beauty Redefined, we believe this is a beauty issue. There may be a few causes worth dying for, but having bronzed skin is not one of them.
Where did we get this idea that fair skin is a flaw in need of fixing by desperate means? Tan skin is a manufactured beauty ideal. In the 1980s, this ideal started making the beauty industry lots of money. Turning women from pasty and pathetic to bronzed and beautiful became a brand-new market for the United States and spawned a nationwide influx of indoor tanning salons that saw a revenue of $5 billion in 2012 alone.
I find these stats especially shocking:
- Nearly 70 percent of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian girls and women, primarily aged 16 to 29 years.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization International Agency of Research on Cancer panel has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).
- Based on seven worldwide studies, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 87 percent.
This vicious cycle of “never quite good enough” needs to stop. Join with me to push back against the skin tone ideals that have been manufactured for us and used against us. Let’s own our skin tones. Let’s commit to no more “fake baking.” Let’s vow to protect our skin with clothing or sunscreen when we’re out in the sun. Let’s plan to get regular skin checks from a doctor and from self-exams. Let’s live long, healthy, cancer-free lives with our beautiful-as-it-is skin.
More about Kite and Beauty Redefined here.
More from Hunstman Cancer Institute at circleofhopeblog.com.
HOW A COMMON DRUG COULD HARM YOU
Acetaminophen is the most common drug in America. It’s known to reduce fever and relieve pain. And if taken correctly, it’s generally safe and effective. However, “with more than 600 medicines containing acetaminophen, people mistakenly overdose on the product, which can lead to liver failure,” says Robin Kim, M.D., chief of liver transplantation at University of Utah Health Care. Read the full article here.
For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.
BUILDING YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE FOR HEALTHY LIVING
Angela Lancaster, wellness coach
Making healthy lifestyle choices can be challenging. We all struggle with knowing what we “should” do and making the choice to actually do it. Often the choice to do something or not depends on our level of self-confidence. If you don’t believe you have the ability to do something, you are not likely to succeed.
Low self-confidence can negatively affect many aspects of your life, including your health. You can take steps to improve your self-confidence:
- 1- Adjust your thoughts – Be optimistic. Replace a negative thought like: “I can’t do this” with “I’m going to try.”
- 2- Be kind to yourself. –Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let a bad day throw you off track. Be diligent.
- 3- Have realistic expectations. –It’s easy to be unhappy when you feel disappointed. Set goals for yourself that are challenging but doable.
- 4- Focus on reducing stress. –Ask yourself, “What can I think and do to make this less stressful?”
- 5- Encourage yourself. –At the end of the day, list all the things you DID do, instead of everything you didn’t do. Build on what you accomplished.