Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Tan?

This is kind of a lame article, comparatively, but still kind of caught my attention: Tanning Beds as deadly as arsenic.

First of all, it's kind of shocking that cancer rates increase 75% when you use ultraviolet tanning beds. Shocking and kind of scary. But that isn't really what made me pause when I read this article, so much as the question of Why and When looking tan became so imperative? And is it really worth the risk? I mean, for years we've been hearing about how tanning is bad for us, how it may or may not cause cancer (apparently people who were banking on May Not picked the wrong side). So why are we still doing it? For that matter, why do we do any of these things that are potentially hazardous to ourselves to look "attractive." And if it is something that's cancer causing, shouldn't that, evolutionarily speaking, be LESS attractive to us? Shouldn't the evolutionary imperative be AWAY from things that are harmful, and toward things that are healthy?

I'm just not sure what to make of the things we do to our bodies in the name of beauty. Shaving legs, plucking hairs, painting our skin with chemical compounds, poisoning our bodies with false tans from false sunlight-- or even poisoning our bodies with TRUE sunlight. We need sun, yes, for Vitamin D. That's true. But does that mean we have to darken our skin to get it? For that matter, what is the evolutionary purpose of a tan? Is it a defense mechanism? Sunburns aren't healthy. We know that. And for someone like me, the only way I tan is to burn first (curse my pale skin!). If a Tan is a self defense mechanism to sunlight-- allowing us to absorb UV radiation more effectively, then what happens to the radiation once it's absorbed? does it build up inside us? does it just pass through? If it builds up, doesn't it make sense that it would be unhealthy to be too tan too often because that means we're absorbing more of the unhealthy UV stuff? But not being tan, and spending too much time in the sun is a recipe for a sunburn, which is worse?

I don't understand the process. Maybe I don't need to. But if tanning is that bad for us-- Carcinogenic in the same class as cigarettes or arsenic, why are we doing it? What makes that behavior, that appearance, attractive? Why do we pay people to increase our chance of contracting a terrible disease? Ever?

Of course, all of that being said, I have to admit that after the years of chemistry labs, there are so many carcinogenic things in this world that we play with daily, it would be totally impossible to avoid them all.

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