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Going to the dark side

Friday 10 December, 2010 by Em

We all have a little bit of the dark side in us, for me this week it was the dark side of cake, dark chocolatey cake (none of this flourless orange business or hidden vegetable ‘carrot' cake).

I can go to this dark side of cake knowing that in just a few weeks a new year heralds and cast iron (will) resolutions kick in and I'll have moved into the light side of summer fruit platters with a dollop of self righteousness on top.

But not all dark sides can be offset or so easily repaired with a fruit platter – like tanning for instance.

For many young people, their dark side this summer will be a sun tan. It probably comes in the guise of it's just my ‘I-want-to-look-hot' side or ‘I-just-forgot-and-got-burnt' side, but whatever the reason, justification or excuse, it can have deadly ramifications.

There was a time when I thought the word ‘deadly' and ‘sun-tan' put together was a bit strong, but then I learned about the actual nature of melanoma and that it is one of the most common cancers in young Victorians and well, the message couldn't be strong enough.

It was a wake up call to learn that you don't have to burn to get a melanoma because tanning, yes those bronzed hues we think look healthy, is in fact not healthy, but a sign of your skin cells in trauma.

And melanoma is not an easy cancer to treat – even if it's cut out it can reappear later in other parts of the body. 

This is a dark force that no lightsaber can wield against – rather five simple steps (Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide) during peak UV times is your best defence.

I'm quite sure Obi-Wan Kenobi would concur, particular in light of new research this week which confirms that regular sunscreen use can help prevent melanoma.

The Australian study tracked 16,000 Queensland residents since 1992, with half participants applying sunscreen every day and half applying as they would normally. Fifteen years on, the number of people who developed melanomas from the group who applied sunscreen daily during the trial was half that of the other group.

So for me this summer, I'll be embracing the light side – of my own natural skin tones (and hopefully more fruit platters).

And for those even contemplating the dark side of tanning, I'd take 30 seconds to watch why there's nothing healthy about a tan

May the Force be with you.

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