Former Presidential royalty and all-time White House hottie JFK had his share of medical problems lurking just below the surface of that winning smile. One illness plaguing him was Addison’s Disease, a symptom of which involves the build up of a substance that darkened his skin – hence old Jack’s year-round tan and his ability to make middle-aged Dems swoon even today.
In pursuit of bronzed bodies of their own, Americans have been hitting the beaches in larger and larger droves every year as well as tanning salons, which have become a $5-billion-a-year monster in this country. But because of an otherwise inexplicable rise in skin cancer rates among the young, health officials have begun cracking down on indoor-tanning services, especially among kids. The Times reports that in the past 3 years, 19 states have made it illegal for under-aged patrons to tan their fannies under the incessant hum of those UV lights – this includes both New York and New Jersey with those states, in fact, having the strictest regulations in the country, forbidding anyone below the age of 14 from climbing in a booth. Several large health organizations have equated tanning salons with cigarettes in terms of the cancer risk posed to minors.
This is in spite of the fact that there’s been no confirmatory evidence in establishing a definite link between the UV light from sun lamps and skin cancer. Even the FDA’s own research has only been able to conclude that though there may be a suggestion of a relationship between the two, findings were still inconclusive. And the fact that skin cancer rates have been going up is hardly proof and may be owing to the fact that more rigorous skin cancer screening programs exist now. Part of the problem in proving a link though may lie in the fact that skin cancers, especially the deadliest kind, melanoma, takes years to show up. But their point is, hey, UV light is UV light so stay the hell out.
So, just like the self-breast and testicular exams we should all be going through every month, dermatologists recommend performing a regular mirror aided search-and-destroy to find moles that don’t look quite right. If you have a mole that's bothering you, definitely go see your doctor. Some of the findings that should set off your alarm bells are if the mole is Asymmetric, has irregular Borders, is not the same Color all the way through, has a large Diameter (bigger than 6 mm), and is Evolving/changing (love those med school mnemonics). Some risk factors for melanoma include being male, being over 50, having a family member with it, having fair skin or red hair, or a history of sunburns as a kid. So what's our advice to our fellow tanners? Everything in moderation, please - unlike the girl in the Times piece who was shocked that she developed melanoma after using a tanning salon no fewer than three times a week. Or maybe skip the tanning and hit the pool instead.