Dark side of tanning EXPLAINED


The sun is essential for so many things but producing a tan is not one of them.  Getting a tan defies all protective instincts of the body.  UV rays from the sun cause damage to the layers of the skin.  This includes:

  • DNA damage to the skin cells- this leads to cancer.
  • Destruction of the local immune system in the skin- this leads to cancer
  • Destruction of collagen in the skin- this leads to deeper wrinkles, dehydration, sagging skin, ie. premature ageing.


The body’s response to this damage is to stimulate the melanocyte (the cell in the skin that produces pigment) to produce pigmentation which acts as a partial barrier to the UV rays.  In seeking a tan, you are deliberately damaging the skin in order to stimulate this protective layer of pigmentation.  When the melanocyte is over stimulated its DNA is damaged and can turn into a MELANOMA (cancer of the melanocyte).  


Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer.  In its advanced stages we have NO CURE.  However, if caught early, the prognosis is excellent. Did you know:

  • more than 10 000 people are treated with melanoma each year.
  • 1250 people will die from melanoma each year.
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer for people aged 15-44 years.
  • Australia’s melanoma rates are four times higher than US,Canada and the UK.


The primary goal of skin cancer management is to prevent it in the first place.  This is done  by SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, SUNGLASSES AND SEEK THE SHADE.  This useful mantra is not just for weekends but should be practiced everyday, especially in summer.


Everyone that has risk factors for skin cancer, should have there skin checked by a doctor regularly.  The risk factors for skin cancer include:

  • Previous skin cancer
  • Presence of pre- cancerous lesions.
  • History of frequent sunburns as a child.
  • Presence of more than 200 moles over the entire body.
  • Past or present regular exposure to UV.


Advances in skin cancer management include the use of computerised dermatoscopy.  This is basically a high powered digital camera specifically designed to look at skin lesions.  The advantages of using computerised dermatoscopy are:

  • Moles can be viewed up to 70 times magnification.  By looking at lesions that closely the doctor is more likely to pick up signs of melanoma earlier.
  • Images of suspicious lesions can be stored for review at a later date so that dangerous changes can be detected earlier.
  • The patient can see what the doctor sees and can be educated more clearly as to why a lesion is dangerous or safe.

To learn more about computerised dermatoscopy click here.


This summer.  DON’T DIE FOR A TAN!!!!


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