November 10, 2003

Students Seek Sunlight in Tanning Booths

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When Ithaca skies turn perpetually gray, every day is a rainy day and not bundling up could potentially lead to pneumonia, people get desperate for sunshine. Where do they turn? Until three weeks ago, probably to any of the dozens of indoor tanning salons in downtown Ithaca and the surrounding area.

Since indoor tanning technology planted itself in dreary Ithaca years ago, college students have made up a hefty portion of the salons’ customer base.

On Oct. 15, the Cabana Tanning Hut opened its doors on Dryden Road, becoming the first tanning salon to hit the streets of Collegetown and making the opportunity for a quick bake much more accessible to many students.

“There’s no other tanning salon here so it’s beneficial for us, and it’s also beneficial for a lot of students who don’t have transportation to get downtown,” said Kelly Ney, the manager of Cabana.

Already, the salon has received a warm welcome.

“We have over 115 clients already — it’s wonderful,” Ney said.

Many of those clients, the students, have rave reviews.

“It’s great,” said Diana Gamzon ’04, who has visited the salon several times in the past couple of weeks. “The beds are state of the art; you can’t stay in them more than 12 minutes because they are so powerful.”

Ironically, the same day the Cabana Tanning Hut opened, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study in which researchers revealed the strongest evidence yet that artificial tanning can be dangerous to healthy skin.

During the study, an international group of researchers surveyed 106,000 women in 1991 and 1992 about their exposure to sunlight and then in 1999 checked the number of cancer cases in the sample. Women who had reported using an artificial tanning system once or more a month when they were between the ages of 20 and 29 increased their risk of melanoma skin cancer by 150 percent.

“Skin cancers are being found in younger and younger patients — including the college-age group,” said Dr. Steven Hughes, associate director for medical services at Gannett: Cornell University Healthy Services.

In addition to skin cancer, the use of artificial tanning devices increases the potential risk for a variety of health hazards, including premature skin aging, skin and eye burns, photosensitive reactions, cataracts, skin cancer, reduced immunity and blood vessel damage, according to the FDA.

Young people make up a significant portion of the 28 million Americans who go tanning each year. Another recent study conducted at Indiana University surveyed 489 students and found that 47 percent had used a tanning light during previous years.

“This is a highly educated segment of society,” said the Indiana study’s author, Evan Farmer, dean of Eastern Virginia Medical School. “If anybody should have knowledge of the risks, they should. But awareness of the dangers doesn’t alter behavior in the face of enormous pressures to conform and achieve the ‘right’ image.”

Students give many reasons for going to a tanning salon. Most Indiana University students surveyed by Farmer said they enjoyed a tanned appearance. Almost three-quarters said they had no time to tan in natural sunlight, and over a half said they go to tanning salons for vacation preparation.

According to Janis Talbot, a health educator at Gannett, many students “misguidedly use indoor tanning as a way to prepare their skin for sun exposure — for example, before going to Cancun during spring break — and to try to reduce the risk of sunburn. ‘Base tans’ do not prevent sunburn. … There is no safe way to tan.”

While it may be true that there is no safe way to tan in UV rays, the use of self-tanners is becoming increasingly popular. Last Wednesday, reported that a growing number of Americans are getting “spray-on” tans. In fact, they report that a national survey found demand for spray-on tans was up 67 percent from last year.

The active ingredients in the self-tanner have been found to be harmless.

“According to the American Association of Dermatology, self-tanners that contain dihydroxyacetone, a colorless sugar that stains the skin, are preferred to other tanning aids,” Hughes said.

Local salons are keeping up with the national trend, which has been featured on shows like Friends and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In Ithaca, Stress Out, a day spa and salon, offers airbrush tanning, and in several weeks California Sun Daze will have self-tanning booths.

Gannett officials advise students to limit exposure time and use safety goggles to protect their eyes. Gannett also suggests making sure that the salon disinfects the goggles and beds after each client to prevent the spread of infections and to make sure they are not using medications which make them more sensitive to artificial light.

Archived article by Stacey Delikat