Thursday, January 9, 2014

Boys Do It Too!

Most people think that, for the most part,  tanning salon goers are females.  Well, guess what?  That's not true! Males do it too.  I have a friend, a former frequent tanner, who is now reeling from the consequences of years of tanning.  In order to shed some light on the fact that men do tan, and men do get cancer from tanning, my friend, for whom I will call Owen (to protect his anonymity), offered to tell his story.

Before we get into Owen (whose diagnosis is basel cell carcinoma) and his anecdote, let's look at some of the stark facts about tanning beds, basel cell carcinoma, and melanoma...

  • The World Health Organization includes ultra violet (UV) tanning devices in its Group 1, the highest cancer risk category- "carcinogenic to humans", which also includes plutonium, cigarettes, and asbestos.

  • Just one indoor tanning session increases a person's chances of developing melanoma by 20%, and each additional session during the same year boosts the risk almost another 2%.

  • People who have had basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, are at an increased risk of developing melanoma.

  • Data from a recent study done at Yale ,shows that between 1990 and 2004, the number of patients under the age of 40, with basal cell carcinoma had jumped.  Between the first and last years, cases in men in that age group had risen by 40%.

  • The projected number of new cases of invasive melanoma in men (in the US) for 2013 was 45,060.

  • Young men account for 40% of the melanoma cases, BUT more than 60% of melanoma deaths.

And for the visual learners out there, if the above bleak facts didn't derail you, watch this:

Now, let's hear from Owen....

Q: At what age did you start tanning?
A: I started tanning outside in my early teens, and started going to the tanning beds around 18 years of age.

Q: How often did you go?
A: When I first started, I only went occasionally, but in my early 20s, I would go 3-5 times a week.

Q: Why did you use tanning beds?
A: I did it because I thought it made me look better.  My older brother was a model and very into his looks.  Me being the younger brother, I just did things to be like him.  My father was really big into self-image and body building.  He also has skin cancer from all of the years in the sun.  So, it was all about image.  I liked the way it would make my muscles more defined looking, which is why bodybuilders tan before competition, to detail the lines.  Men are just as concerned with self-image as women.  Men are just afraid to say that.

Q: When did you stop tanning?
A: I stopped getting in the tanning beds about 4 years ago when I had my first treatment for pre-cancerous sun damage.  However, I still continued to lay at the pool, literally everyday of the summer.  This past summer (2013) was the first time I did not go to the pool to tan.

Q: Why did you stop?
A: I see the severity of what tanning beds and the sun can do to our skin and what it did to me.

Q: What consequences have you had to endure because of tanning (i.e. - procedures you have had, etc.).
A: Going through the skin treatments every winter is really painful.  Applying the Fluorouracil for 2-3 weeks is brutal.  I am going through the process now and it is very painful.  I have also had to have skin cancer cut from my neck.

Owen during his treatment

Q: What would you tell other boys/men who tan?
A: Right now my face looks like a train wreck, so its giving me an opportunity for some of my friends to see what tanning beds and the sun can do. I tell them about the pain I am in and what I go through, as a result of trying to look good.

Q: What do you do now to stay sun safe?
A: I use sunscreen everyday.  I wear sun protective clothing as much as possible.  I am just very mindful of the sun today.

And so there you have it...
Males DO tan.
Males DO get skin cancers.

Spread this story in hopes of saving lives.  We tell our stories to help others.

"Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty."

~Elie Wiesel

Creep By Radiohead

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