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Swimwear Choices and Tanning (2)

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The Cult of the Sun, When Worship Turns Ugly
 
      Another facet of summertime enjoyment is the chance to spend hours outside in the warm bright sunshine. But for most of us, more than a little sun can be a bad thing in the long term. Yet, some women work year-round to maintain their “tan” in an effort to keep what they feel is a “healthy glow”, little knowing that their ‘healthy glow’ can lead to ‘skin damage’ and possible cancer risks.
 
      My cousin and her best friend are two prime examples of avid sun worshippers. From the time they were in junior high school they spent hours each day during the summer “sun bathing” in an effort to get a golden tan. Once they even used vegetable oil used for cooking as tanning oil. The result was that they got horribly burned, although the redness faded into a dark brown coloring after a few days.
 
      Today, some twenty years later, particularly in the area of her chest/bosom, my cousin has that crinkled, shiny look to her skin that one associates with well-worn leather products. She also has countless freckles and sunspots on her chest which she has to keep an eye on for fear that any one of them could be cancerous (or could become that way). Even without the cancer concerns, the skin is obviously damaged as it no longer has the resiliency, plump firmness and dewy texture it should have.
 
      Tans May Fade, but Damage is Forever – Many people are unaware that sun exposure has a permanent effect on the skin. They think that because the coloration of the skin from sun exposure will fade away that the skin “heals itself”. They also think that when they achieve a tan as opposed to burning, that they are sun bathing in a safe or healthy way.
 
      Neither of these assumptions is true. In fact, a tan is the first sign of skin damage. Tans result as an injury to the epidermis. UV light penetrates the skin and the melanocytes produce melanin in the skin in an attempt to prevent the UV radiation from penetrating more deeply into the lower layers of the skin. The “tan” works to protect the lower layers of the skin, but the protection only goes so far.
 
      When the skin is further exposed to the UV light it burns, bringing pain, redness and swelling of the skin tissue. Depending on the severity of the burn, the cells are destroyed and these skin cells may peel away to make room for new skin cells. Even when the damaged cells are shed the UV radiation can have caused damage to the DNA of the remaining skin cells which can sometimes lead to skin cancer.
 
      While people with darker skin pigment are less likely to burn because of the protection afforded them by the heavier melanin content of their skin, they can still suffer from damage and even burning. People with darker skin types experience effects like dry, rough patches, wrinkling and other skin disorders.
 
      The problems become more and more severe (and increasingly obvious) as you repeatedly expose the skin to UV radiation. Since the damage done to the skin is cumulative and lasting, people who regularly expose themselves to sunlight for prolonged periods can see a pronounced increase in the rate at which they age.
 
      For example, I happen to have a twin, and my twin has always preferred the outdoors and sunshine. He has a skin type that is darker than mine, and would develop a dark, golden tan, where my skin would always burn and fade, never getting more than the barest hit of a tan.
 
      Now that we are 40 there are obvious signs of the difference in our behavior regarding the sun. He has much more pronounced lines and wrinkling around the eyes, forehead and the corners of his mouth.

 
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