A tan is much more than skin turning brown. Skin cells in the epidermis (the top or outer layer of your skin) produce a pigment called melanin, which gives skin its colour and works to protect the cells by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, the production of melanin is increased and the skin darkens (tans).
A tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged by UV radiation. Even a light tan shows that the skin has increased its production of melanin to protect itself from the effects of too much radiation. And while people with dark skin that tans easily have some natural protection against UV radiation, activities like sunbathing or not using sun protection when UV levels are high will still damage their skin.
It is a myth that it’s safe to tan as long as you don’t burn or that a light tan is a sign of good health. There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan.
Amanda Smith was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 30.
|“My sister noticed that a mole on my forearm had changed. I had noticed that the mole had changed in colour and size, but it never occurred to me that I should have it checked. The mole turned out to be a melanoma.I was very surprised as I had never considered myself at high risk of melanoma. In fact I had assumed I was safe, as I have olive skin. I don’t think I spent more time in the sun than my friends and usually wore sunscreen. But I did sunbake a lot when I was at university, and I had always done a lot of walking with my arms exposed.I had the melanoma removed, as well as an area of skin around it to make sure all the cancer cells were gone. That was the only treatment I needed because it was caught early. The mole was only a couple of millimetres in diameter, but everyone who sees my scar is surprised at how big it is.I’m now very careful with my skin and the skin of my two young children. I wear a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses when I’m outside, and a long-sleeved cotton shirt if I’m going to be outside for more than a few minutes. I also avoid the sun between 10am and 3pm.My advice to other people is to talk to your doctor about your risk factors for skin cancer – even if you don’t think you have any – and see a doctor straight away if a spot or mole changes. Needless to say, I haven’t sunbaked since the melanoma – a tan just isn’t worth it”.