Fashion businesswoman Tracey Hall has joined a campaign reminding people of the risks of topping up their tan on a winter sun holiday with unprotected exposure to the sun or by using sunbeds, both of which can speed up ageing of their skin and permanently damage their health.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus NI are working with the local fashion and beauty influencer to bust some of the myths that surround tanning.
Tracey, Director of Style Academy Model Agency, agreed it’s important to encourage people to protect their skin in the sun and to avoid sunbed use.
“Sunbeds were a craze when I was a teenager, with tanning studios popping up on every street corner but I am proud to say that I have never used one,” she said.
“I encourage all my models to avoid tanning, as it can cause premature ageing and wrinkles, and potentially increase the risk of skin cancer. Yet, thousands of people every year overexpose their skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from either the sun or sunbeds.”
Tan damages skin
Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Coordinator, Cancer Focus NI, said: “Many people think having a tan makes them look more attractive but having a tan is actually a sign that our skin has been damaged by over exposure to UV radiation. To lower the risk of skin cancer we urge everyone to avoid over exposure to UV from either sunbeds or the sun.”
Denise McCallion at the Public Health Agency said: “Today there’s so much more research available on the damaging effects of UV radiation, but still the old myths persist. We’re using scientific evidence reviewed by expert bodies, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), to inform the public on the dangers and we hope it will encourage people to think twice about tanning in future.”
Let’s bust some tanning myths using advice from the World Health Organisation:
MYTH: My skin is only damaged if I get sunburned
THE TRUTH IS: Tanning without sunburn can still cause premature skin ageing and increase the risk of skin cancer through DNA damage. Each time skin is exposed to UV radiation from the sun or from a sunbed, the risk of developing skin cancer is increased.
MYTH: Sunbed tanning is safer than sun tanning
THE TRUTH IS: Sunbeds do not offer ‘safer tanning’ People who have used a sunbed at least once have a 20% higher risk of developing melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer), than people who have never used a sunbed. This risk increases with each additional sunbed session.
MYTH: A tan is healthy and attractive
THE TRUTH IS: A tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged from exposure to UV radiation, from the sun or sunbeds – it is not a sign of good health. Over exposure to UV radiation can speed up skin ageing, increase your risk of skin cancer and can be harmful to your eyes.
MYTH: Using a sunbed will give me a base tan and prevent me getting sunburned on holiday
THE TRUTH IS: Any tan is a sign of skin damage, including a ‘base tan’. Research has shown that a sunbed tan does not reduce the risk of sunburn from sun exposure and may even increase it by giving a false sense of protection.
MYTH: Using a sunbed is a good way to top up Vitamin D
THE TRUTH IS: Studies show that using a sunbed is not an efficient way to generate Vitamin D. In most countries, including Northern Ireland, only very brief exposure to sunlight is needed to maintain your Vitamin D levels. If you are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency then you may need to take Vitamin D supplements – speak to your local health professional for advice.
Marbeth Ferguson added: “It’s important to get to know your skin. If you notice anything unusual, such as a change to a mole or a blemish, make an appointment with your GP. If it’s not serious your mind will be put at rest. You certainly won’t be wasting anyone’s time. However, the earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.”
For more information on how to take care in the sun and the risks associated with sunbeds visit www.careinthesun.org. If you are concerned about skin cancer you can also call the Cancer Focus NI’s free information and support Nurse Line on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the charity’s nurses on firstname.lastname@example.org