Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Suntans Destroy DNA and Ruin Skin

“No tan is a healthy tan.” That’s a phrase that always confused me. Sort of like, “no news is good news.” Does that mean that not having a tan is a healthy, or that tans are inherently unhealthy?

Answer: Yes.

We know that sunlight includes ultraviolet radiation. We also know these lovely UV rays cause tans.

Maybe it's me... But I think this sun looks smug
But what is a tan?

The tan is our body’s response to damage. Yes – bronze skin is on the same biological level as a scab. When ultraviolet radiation hits us, it has enough energy to pass through our skin. Nucleic acid, the stuff that makes up our DNA, is extremely sensitive to UV energy. So, in any cell that the UV rays hit, the DNA mutates, usually resulting in cell death. However, if that cell does not die, and it mutates in just the right way, this cell can create a tumor. Or worse, this damaged cell can become melanoma – skin cancer.

A skin tan is our body’s way of beefing up its defenses. If DNA is the quarterback, melanin, responsible for complexion, is a lineman. When our body gets blasted with sun rays, melanin takes a majority of the hit and reduces the amount of energy that makes it into our body. If our body senses too many cells dying, it creates more melanin, resulting in a darker complexion.

So, “no tan is a healthy tan.” A tan means cells in your body are dying to UV radiation, putting you at risk for cancer.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, prolonged damage to your skin can dry it out, giving it a leathery feel. There is no way to reverse this level of damage.

Personally, when I go out in the sun, I hope to look like this

Not like this

But maybe this will get my girlfriend off my back about “doing things” this summer. Sorry babe, we can’t go out to the beach. We might get cancer. Better to just let me stay inside and play video games all day instead.

It’s worth a shot, right?

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