In a social sense, artificial tanning may be the equivalent of smoking cigarettes a generation ago: Everyone knows it'll probably give me cancer, but I'm going to keep doing it anyway because I like it.
Among young American women especially, the Barbie-cue continues unabated. And don't expect that to change, even in light of a Scandinavian study that shows women who tan in salons one or more times a month increased their risk of developing melanoma by 55 percent. Worse, women who are salon slaves in their 20s triple their chances of getting skin cancer.
The study, conducted in Norway and Sweden, is particularly revealing because melanoma rates are generally low among the populations of those northern nations. It's thus easy to single out indoor tanning as the differentiating factor in the study.
Last year, 88,000 Americans were diagnosed with melanoma, and the disease claimed 7,400 lives in the United States.
Yet, in the name of beauty and sex appeal, young women (and men) routinely pop themselves into these skin toasters, like sliding a bullet into a chamber for a fun little game of Russian roulette.
Is a tan that attractive? Then go outside and get one, keeping in mind that there is already a healthy debate over the risk of natural exposure to the sun -- albeit a bit muted here in the land of gray and rain. But the tanning booth risk is a no-brainer.
There's nothing pretty about skin cancer.
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