usual, summer is baking us, creating saunas out of our houses and ovens out of our cars, and we can't help but complain about the heat. Words like "unbearable" and "miserable" come to mind. Then we go on vacations to the beach-or perhaps not if current gas prices discourage us enough-where our idea of a good time is lying on the sand, purposely baking ourselves. Now, in addition to the fact that this doesn't exactly make much sense, it's also not very healthy. As if you didn't already know.In the United States, more than 62,000 cases of melanoma-the most serious form of skin cancer-are diagnosed every year, according to the American Cancer Society. Researchers recently found that there are an increasing number of young women diagnosed with the disease. An increasing number meaning 50 percent more than in 1980, while the number of diagnosed young men has remained fairly consistent.

According to The Washington Post, a possible reason the number of young men leveled off in 1980 and hasn't risen much since could be because many cancer and melanoma awareness campaigns were launched around that time, but they seem not to have affected young women. Tanning bed addiction, ladies?

More than 8,400 people die of the disease every year, so it makes me assume that if you tan all the time, whether indoors or out, you're really sacrificing your future health for how you look now. (I know, hard to believe, but we humans do that.)

We all have our bad habits, but lying in a box with bright lights inches from your skin, and sometimes touching it, just seems like a no-brainer. SkinCheck.org says that UVA radiation-the kind that gives you a tan-is 10 to 13 times greater in tanning beds than in the sun, which accounts for the reason we're only supposed to be in one for 20 minutes at a time. UVB rays cause sunburn, but that doesn't mean UVA rays are safe. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, and both types are linked to skin cancer and melanoma. The commonly accepted excuse for getting a "base tan" in a salon before heading to the beach is very wrong. A base tan only provides about an SPF 2-3 protection, which is definitely not enough to prevent sunburn or delay it long enough to avoid applying sunscreen before sun exposure.

In case you don't know what SPF means, it stands for Sun Protection Factor. Now here comes the math part: To figure out how long your sun-screen will protect you, multiply the amount it takes before your skin usually starts to burn by the SPF protection number of the sunscreen you apply to figure out how long your skin will be protected. For example, if your skin usually burns within 5 minutes of sun exposure and you apply SPF 30, your skin will be protected for 150 minutes. But it's recommended that you reapply every two hours, and even more often if you're swimming, sweating or after toweling off.

Sunburn is painful anyway, so why risk getting it? It makes wearing clothes painful, which hey, that's fine if you don't plan on leaving your house for a few days, but going to work like that might be a bad idea.

I'm guilty of tanning occasionally, too. I'm Polish and graced with the pale gene, but I crave a nice tan in the summer. I'll lay out-covered in sunscreen-for an hour or two, but I've never stepped foot inside a tanning salon, and I actually cover my entire body with a towel when I'm at the beach and feel like my skin's had enough. (You can ask my friends. They make fun of me for it.) I think it's the threat of skin cancer that really freaks me out when I feel a burn coming on.

Something as painful as sunburn is probably a sign that we shouldn't let it happen.

For more information, visit www.skincancer.org.

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