The Dangers of Sun Tanning

Dangers of Sun Tanning
Question: “What is Tanning?”
Answer: “The process of treating skins to produce leather!”
A suntan is an evolved response in our ancestors, in which the accumulation of melanin granules in keratinocytes (skin cells) provides physical protection against the DNA-damaging effects of sunlight.

A tan in response to a weekend outdoors is a familiar occurrence for most Kiwis. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes skin cells to release cellular messengers causing inflammation immunosuppression, and tanning. It also causes accelerated ageing of the skin. UV light causes DNA damage to cells, in response, the body then combats and repairs the damaged cells. Melanocytes protect the skin by creating and releasing more melanin into the skin’s cells. Each skin cell gets a protective covering over its nucleus, thereby protecting the cell from further DNA damage. One cannot gradually get a tan and prevent DNA skin damage. The first step in getting a tan is the damage that occurs to the DNA. Tanning does not occur without this step. This DNA damage is also what causes mutations in cells that cause these cells to become cancerous (malignant) cells. These malignant cells divide and grow without ever stopping. When this process happens in the skin, basal cells turn into basal cell carcinomas. This type of cancer is the most common cancer of all cancers. Regular skin cells (keratinocytes) turn into squamous cell carcinomas. Melanocytes turn into melanomas, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The Skin bears the most damage but excessive UV light exposure also damages the eyes. UV light has been implicated in the development of pterygium (growth on the outer layer of the eye) and cataracts ( opacification of the lens of the eye).

There is no such thing as a safe tan.

This does not mean we need to hide from the sun.

Sunlight is part of life, so have fun in the sun, but remember you don’t need a tan.

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