Spring break is just around the corner—finally! Most, if not all of us, welcome this warmer weather, but for some, warmer temperatures mean more pressure to look good.

This is the time of year when students begin their preparation for spring and summer apparel. Spring arrives with a recurring trend—pale skin is not in.  Pasty skin is a battle some students conquer with tanning creams and lotions. Other students, mostly girls, run the risk of turning orange by getting a spray tan. But the quick and dirty way for many to achieve that golden glow is to bake in a tanning salon.

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66 KSC students answered an informal survey question that asked, “Do you use a tanning bed more than one time a year?” 80 percent claimed they have not visited a tanning salon, while 20 percent said they have.

Does this statistic surprise you? We thought 20 percent was a low outcome for the number of students who “fake bake.” Perhaps some students were shy to admit their tanning ways? Maybe it’s because students know the dangers of tanning.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who have been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning.  The danger lies in the UV rays. UV light, according to AAD, stimulates the production of melanin, the dark pigmentation that surrounds the core of the cells that protect DNA. This melanin substance absorbs and scatters radiation throughout the body.

The Food and Drug Administration recently released a statement on its website warning consumers of the effects of UV radiation in tanning devices. The statement reads, “A recent report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer…concludes that tanning devices are more dangerous than previously thought. Exposure to UV radiation, whether from the sun or indoor tanning beds, can cause skin cancer, skin burns, premature skin aging, and eye damage.”

Still, indoor tanning is a $2.6 billion industry in the United States, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.

Tiffany Mathews, wellness coordinator for KSC, said exposure to the sun is not all bad.

“While it is important to expose yourself to sunlight in order to get that Vitamin D, too much sun, like tanning, is harmful,” Mathews said. Mathews continued and stated tanning beds do not contain Vitamin D, resulting in no health benefits.

KSC senior Anna Lienghot said she has never used a tanning bed.

“I’m too nervous to use one,” Lienghot stated. Lienghot described herself as “cancer-prone,” and said she did not want to risk her health. Lienghot said she sticks to tanning cream when she wants to appear bronzed.

Similarly, sophomore Kristen McNally said she tanned once over winter break.

“It was just random. It’s not a regular thing for me,” McNally said. McNally stated family members have had skin cancer, which scares her away from making tanning a regular habit.

Junior Christine Sullivan said she used to visit tanning salons on a three day per week basis.

“I stopped going because it got too expensive, plus it’s not good for you,” Sullivan stated. “But mostly it’s because it was so expensive.” Sullivan said salons do not post warnings on cancer risks, though she was warned to wear protective goggles in the booths.

Chris Gruner, a junior, said he’s never been to a tanning salon, but knows many girls who do.

Gruner said, “It’s really noticeable when girls tan too much. Just stop.” Gruner stated a “nice bronze” looks nice, but cautioned girls not to overload.

Gruner commented on the few girls he sees on campus who are too dark or orange and said, “Damn, she’s going tanning—that’s not cool.”

Junior Jaime Kathan said she visited a tanning salon before vacationing one year.

“I tanned before I left to protect my skin because the sun exposure where I was going was really high,” Kathan explained. “I did it so I wouldn’t burn.”

Kathan is one of many who have fallen for the idea that getting a “base tan” before hitting the beach is beneficial. But with the information released that states how harmful tanning beds are—how can exposing oneself to UV rays before going outside to get more UV rays be useful?

Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., a doctor with the Mayo Clinc, addressed this myth and said, “Many people go to tanning salons to get a so-called ‘base tan’ before leaving on a beach vacation. The theory behind this is a few sessions of indoor tanning will protect your skin from sunburn. But there’s little evidence that this is true.” Gibson explained the issue being that repeated exposure to UV radiation, whether it comes from a tanning bed or the sun, increases the risk of premature skin aging and cancer.

If you’re unhappy with your pale appearance, try the various tanning lotions and foams you can buy at any drugstore before resorting to a tanning booth.

Mathews summarized these issues when she concluded, “Strive to be the best you can be, know the information, know the facts, and make an informed, healthy decision.”

Keep calm and carry on, Keene State.


Julie Conlon and Kim Borkowski can be contacted at jcolon1@ksc.mailcruiser.com and kborkowski@ksc.mailcruiser.com

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