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As summer is upon us, it is quite common to desire a tanned body. After all, we are fed a diet of airbrushed photos of tan swimsuit models by the media. However, it is important to keep in mind the serious health risks involved in tanning.

Many people with active work schedules in the summer have trouble finding time to go to the beach, but still want to tan. A popular alternative is indoor tanning in the form of tanning beds. Tanning salons claim in their advertisements that their products are safer than a prolonged beach day since you spend less time at a salon appointment than you would on an average beach day. However, there is an indisputable link between the UV rays used in tanning beds and melanoma. In fact, the International Journal of Cancer reported in March 2007 that the use of tanning beds before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma by a staggering 75%!

A common argument for tanning is that it is a source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is definitely essential as it improves bone health as well as strengthening your heart and protects against breast cancer. However, there are so many alternative sources of Vitamin D. A balanced diet containing milk, cereal, salmon, tuna, and other foods with high Vitamin D levels can provide the necessary amount without risking skin damage. If you are concerned about your Vitamin D levels, you can take a supplement. UV exposure also has negative cosmetic effects on your skin. Excessive exposure to UV rays can create “photoaging” which causes a person’s skin to be prematurely wrinkled and leathery.

I recommend that you take the following precautions this summer:
Wear a broad spectrum sunblock of at least SPF 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Avoid sun exposure between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Wear protective clothing, such as a broad-brimmed hat and long sleeves.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun and every two hours after while you are exposed.