Being Beautiful Young & Healthy

Thursday, April 30, 2009 ·

Getting a nice, healthy-looking tan -- a goal for many people now that summer is less than three months away -- can carry the risk of skin cancer from overexposure to ultraviolet rays, either from natural sunlight or from the lamps in tanning beds and booths. "Everybody wants the tan color that's been accepted by society as being beautiful, young and healthy,'' said Dr. Mordechai Tarlow of Advanced Dermatology and Skin Surgery in Lakewood. "But of course you have to find ways of doing it responsibly.'' One of those ways involves what is known as "sunless tanning.'' A sunless tan is achieved by applying products containing dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a carbohydrate that usually comes from plant sources like sugar beets and sugar cane by the fermentation of glycerin.

DHA is approved by the Federal Drug Administration and comes in wipes, sprays and creams. It causes a chemical reaction with amino acids in the surface cells of skin, producing a darkening effect. DHA affects only the outermost cells of the epidermis, or the outermost layer of skin, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society Inc. Web site. Because DHA has nothing to do with the traditional pathways by which the sun causes skin to develop color, Tarlow said, there's no worry about skin cancer. Some salons offer spray tanning as an alternative to sunbathing. Hollywood Tans recently came out with two new products that can dramatically speed up and enhance results, said Sue Lutter, senior tanologist at Hollywood Tans. The HyperTan tanning accelerator additive and the BronzBoost bronze enhancing concentrate are available as additives to Mystic Tan's original Tanning Myst spray cartridges, she said.

The accelerator reduces the time it takes for a sunless tan to develop. The bronze enhancer applies an instant color to skin, Lutter said, adding that the time it takes to develop is usually less than four hours. The HyperTan is sugar-based and has no chemicals added, she said. It is UV free, which means there are no lamps involved in the process. It comes as a capsule and has amino acids that even out the proteins in the skin and help boost the sunless tan, Lutter added. "This is the fastest way to get a beautiful, natural-looking sunless tan that lasts for up to a week,'' Lutter said. "It goes on as a light mist that feels dry and clean, and you leave ready to go back to work or out to a special event looking and feeling great.''Tarlow said skin cancer as a whole is more common than every other cancer combined.

There are different types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma; squamous cell carcinoma; and melanoma, the most deadly form. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and usually appears as the classic "sore that doesn't heal,'' Tarlow said. It's a bleeding or scabbing sore that may seem to get somewhat better at first but may recur and bleed again. Most basal cell carcinomas show up on the face and neck where the skin is exposed to sunlight; however, they can also show up in places like the abdomen, leg, and scalp, according to MedicineNet.com. Squamous cell carcinoma are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales under the microscope. They are found in the tissue that forms at the surface of the skin, the lining of hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts, according to MedicineNet.com.

Exposure to sunlight has been linked to skin cancer, Tarlow said. But people are doing more than just casually exposing themselves to sunlight -- they're going out to the beaches and tanning salons and are receiving dangerous amounts of exposure, he added. Skin cancer can strike at any age. Many young adults can be affected, Tarlow said. There are about 8,000 to 10,000 deaths a year from melanoma, he added. Some states this year are considering laws that would restrict indoor tanning by minors. Lawmakers cited studies that show too much tanning, especially in young people, can harm the skin and lead to skin cancer. Florida would become the latest among 17 states, including Hawaii, to consider a ban on indoor tanning by young teens. Tarlow often offers advice to his dermatology patients. He says, "I don't tell them that the sun is absolutely evil and you can't have any -- I just say go out responsibly. "Put on sunscreen each morning and enjoy yourself,'' he said. "If you think you're going to be out excessively, then put on more sunscreen.''

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