Think twice before you tan

Before you decide to lay out in the sun this summer without sunscreen, think about Tawny Willoughby.

As a teen, Tawny Willoughby used a tanning bed four to five times a week. In fact, she had her own personal tanning bed in her home. After one of her classmates was diagnosed with skin cancer, she made her first dermatology appointment. At the age of 21, Willoughby was diagnosed skin cancer.

Now in her late 20s, she has had basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous carcinoma once. She frequently visits the dermatologists and usually has a cancerous piece of skin removed.

If you are heading to beach this summer wear sunscreen! Photo Courtesy of Stefan Kingsley.
If you are heading to beach this summer wear sunscreen. Hanna Chuang never leaves the house without it. Photo by Stefan Kingsley.

As the summer months begin and happy teenagers flock to sunny beaches and lay out by refreshing pools, Willoughby serves as a reminder to protect your skin. Senior Annastasia High is not alone in her plans to go the beach this summer this summer and “get a tan.”

While getting sun might be fun, it is important to be cautious. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. This includes both long term exposure or short periods of intense exposure. Cancer research has proven that ultraviolet light found in sunlight damages the DNA found in skin cells. This damage can happen years before a cancer develops.

Choose a sunscreen of SPF 15 or above. Photo courtesy of Ethan Fisher.
Choose a sunscreen of SPF 15 or above, like Stefan Kingsley. Photo by Ethan Fisher.

Although skin cancer is typically prevalent in adults, it is important to protect your skin before it is too late. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go to the beach, pool, or have a picnic outside, but you should be cautious.

Sun protection factor or SPF tells you the amount of protection the sunscreen gives against UVB radiation. National guidelines in countries like Singapore and the UK recommend a SPF 15 and above: “the higher, the better.”

When using sunscreen, do not assume that you won’t get sun exposure or burn. Cancer Research UK suggests reapplying sunscreen regularly because “no sunscreen, no matter how high the factor, can provide 100% protection.”

In order to let the sunscreen absorb into your skin, apply it before you go outside. Also, remember to reapply your sunscreen about every two hours because it can be easily rubbed, washed, or sweated off. In addition to sunscreen, you should wear a hat and sunglasses to protect sensitive areas like your face and eyes.

It is important to realize that no one is safe from skin cancer. Think of Jess Tuck, who died at the young age of 15 to melanoma.

Like most teens, Tuck loved going to the beach and laying out in the sun with her friends. But soon, a harmless activity turned into a deadly consequence. Tuck’s cancer spread to her spine and her lungs. Quickly, her body began shutting down and eventually the cancer killed her.

Photo Courtesy of Stefan Kingsley.
Regardless of the weather, put on sunscreen like Ethan Fisher. Photo by Stefan Kingsley.

People get wrapped up in the way tanning makes them look, without realizing the harm it can cause. Senior Michaela Santillo “tans occasionally” because she “likes the way (she) looks” when she “has gotten some sun.”

The golden, summer glow might look good, but there is often a price to pay. The consequence can be anything from a uncomfortable sunburn to skin cancer to even death.

Don't risk skin cancer: wear sunscreen, hats, and extra layers.  Photo Courtesy of Stefan Kingsley.
Don’t risk skin cancer: always wears sunscreen, hats, and extra layers. Photo by Stefan Kingsley.

Remember to regularly check your skin for changes. If you happen to find any changes within in a week or a month, make an appointment with your doctor to see if it is skin cancer. This summer, wear sunscreen, reapply, stay in the shade, and wear extra layers. It is important to be cautious. It could save your life.

Author: Mackenzie Hirsch

Mackenzie Hirsch is a Senior and a new addition to the Eye Staff this year. She is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina but has lived in Singapore for 5 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming for the SAS varsity team and traveling to new places.

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