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The Tanning race

By phil villarreal
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 22, 1999
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Kristy Mangos
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Bikinis lined the pool on a hot April day, and the women that wore them all wanted the same thing: sunlight. They were all after the elusive perfect tan - the one thing that would make their shapely bodies even more appealing. To attain this goal, they had to do their time. So there they were, sprawled out like beached whales on tanning chairs.

This scene is repeated each and every day that the sun peeks its head out over the UA campus, which is basically every day. Most of these tanners are women, and they form a suntanning culture. Or maybe just a cult. Whatever the case, sunbathers represent a significant part of the student body - they live in an effort to make that body darker.

Prepare to burn

Health Education senior Amy Bork sunbathes regularly, and comes well-prepared. She said that she usually uses sunscreen, at least with an SPF of 15. She usually wears sunglasses as well to protect her eyes from the damaging rays, too. Just not last Sunday. She needed to cram all of her sunbathing into two days because she plans on going to visit friends in California soon.

"I don't have time," Bork said.

In order to win a quick suntan, Bork used SPF-4 tanning oil.

Bork is from San Diego, so she's an expert on suntanning in different climates.

"You get a quicker tan here," Bork said. "But in San Diego it's a lot more comfortable. There's a cool breeze and you don't need to lay out by a pool over there."

Psychology seniors Leah Sullivan and Jennifer Zuckerman see laying out as a social pastime. They take in the rays at the rec center at least six hours a week, along with their roommate, Family Studies senior Amy Binderman.

None of them were wearing sunscreen when interviewed. They said that they were aware of the risk for cancer, but the benefits outweighed the risk.

"There's always risks. I don't smoke," Zuckerman said.

"If you never have fun in your life, don't do something, then you'll be a really unhappy person."

Three-headed C-monster

Let's get some scientific crap out of the way.

Three types of skin cancer are attainable from sunbathing, split up into two groups.

The first group, non-melanoma skin cancer, contains two of the three types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These cancers are responsible for 1,200 deaths in the US annually, posting a relatively small threat.

The other group is much more well-known and proportionately more lethal - melanoma skin cancer. More than 7,300 Americans die from melanoma every year.

Two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays are emitted from the sun, labeled "A" and "B." The "A" wavelengths are the ones that cause tanning, and "B" wavelengths are the ones responsible for sunburns.

People with genetically darker skin phototypes have less of a chance to develop skin cancer than those with light skin phototypes.


Kristy Mangos
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Marketing sophomore Jenna McGinnis catches some rays at home between classes yesterday. McGinnis sunbathes between two and three times a week.

Coffin tan

The alternative to outside sunbathing is the tanning salon. Donald Smith is a manager at Sunsations, 1708 E. Speedway Blvd. His wife, Patricia Reykdal, owns the salon along with two others. Smith says that scientific evidence shows that well-controlled tanning salons reduce the risk of burning compared to outdoor sunbathing, thus reducing the risk for cancer.

Tanning salons also provide other advantages over laying out in the sun:

*No sweating. Booths are air-conditioned.

*Tanners can control the amounts of UV "A" and "B" rays that they're soaked in, decreasing the likelihood of getting torched.

*It's private. Women don't risk being gawked at while they soak in the rays. Smith puts it best: "Thugs like you would be laying on the roof looking at them," he said.

And then there are the negatives.

"I don't like the idea. It's coffin-like," Zuckerman said. "It's claustrophobic to me."

Zuckerman said that she rarely uses tanning salons. The only time she goes for the indoor pseudo-sun is when she's pressed for time.

Binderman said that the main reason for tanning is to be noticed by the opposite sex. Tanning is a must-do for a woman that cares about her appearance.

"Most girls here are tan, and very in shape," Binderman said. "At a bar when you see someone that's so tan and you blend in with the white walls, who's sticking out? Who's going to be approached more?"