In spite of risks, UNL students say they’ll keep tanning

Many girls at UNL aren’t worried about the white stuff falling from the sky during the winter, but rather their pasty legs and the pale appearance of their skin.

Many turn to tanning. Three women interviewed echoed commonly held beliefs as to why.

“Growing up kids always made fun of my pale skin. They called me Casper.”

“I like my skin dark, it looks better.”

“I feel better about myself when I have more color. I’m a lot more confident.”

Meredith Burroughs, Erica English and Grace Bossert aren’t stupid. They know the risks, but no risk is greater to them and many females than the risk of not looking good, they said.

So every week, they go to a tanning salon.

They’ve heard the statistics. Tanning in a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases the chances of getting melanoma by 75 percent. The bulbs in tanning beds are three to five times stronger than the sun. Melonoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is the second most common in 19 to 25 year olds.

Dr. Robert Fonda, recently retired dermatologist in Omaha, said there is no safe way to tan, but if you are going to a tanning booth, you’re voluntary asking for trouble.

“Stay away from the tanning beds, no good can come from them. Tan skin is literally damaged skin. You don’t have to get fried to get skin cancer,” he said.

The three UNL students interviewed know this, but every time time they make their weekly visit to Sun Tan City and Ashley Lynn’s tanning salon, they turn off all these voices.

“I am aware of the risks, but I don’t think about them when I am tanning. I try not to worry about it too much,” Burroughs said.

The girls’ families don’t seem to mind their daughter’s tanning habits.

“My mom is the one that actually got me started on tanning,” English said. “I went to the tanning bed for my junior prom and after that she got me a monthly membership.”

Despite the support from their mothers, their parents still worry slightly, but not enough to make their daughters stop going.

All three girls have their reasons for tanning.

Confidence.

Makes me happy.

I look better this way.

It makes me feel warm.

For them and many other college girls, a higher value is placed on appearance and sexuality rather than health.

When asked if any of the girls smoked, each one laughed and replied immediately “No.”

The girls were then asked if they would smoke knowing what they know about the dangers and the potential for lung cancer. It was “no” across the board again.

So what’s the difference between tanning and smoking?

Burroughs said that tanning isn’t something she’ll do forever, but for right now it helps her. She isn’t worried about her future self.

“I was diagnosed with depression, and the tanning booth and the warmth actually help to change my mood,” she said.

English said they are different.

“Tanning isn’t addictive,” she said. “I can stop whenever I want to and I will someday.”

Bossert doesn’t view tanning as a gross habit.

“I guess I’m more knowledgeable about the effects of smoking,” she said. “I view it as a gross habit, but I don’t perceive tanning to be gross.”

Bossert knows how bad it is, but the risks aren’t enough for her to allow herself to get pasty and wear a blanket of white.

“As bad as it sounds, if it happens to me I’ll deal with it, but for now I’m tanning.”

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