Readers, you've used Crisco. Mayonnaise. Baby oil and iodine. All in the pursuit of a great tan.
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"I used to cover myself with shortening so I would literally fry!" writes Sue of Seaman, Ohio.
We asked readers to respond to an MSNBC.com article on how appealing to vanity — not fears of skin cancer — seems to be the key to keeping today's young people from baking themselves in the sun.
Bronze skin, our readers told us, comes at a cost.
Cindy of Eden Prairie, Minn., writes that she has been hospitalized four times with sun poisoning. "I felt asleep in the pool for 5 hours once — my face blistered, cracked, and was leathery and 'scabby' and once THAT healed I had to have the dermatologist perform a chemical peel to remove the residual damage.
"I (also) had to go to the hospital where they put me on IVs with saline for dehydration, pain pills and my then-boyfriend/now-husband would slather me in Noxzema head to toe and wrap me like a mummy and lean me onto the couch — first a damp sheet to cool my skin and then a comforter around that because I had the chills and was shaking. For a week every morning he would have to slowly 'peel' the sheets off of my burned backside because my skin stuck to everything."
Skin cancer has scared many MSNBC.com readers into the shade. Of the 6,000 readers who responded to our live vote about the dangers of tanning , 81 percent said skin cancer was your greatest fear.
"I was 22 when I got the news I had the most deadly form of malignant melanoma," writes a reader from Memphis, Tenn., who used to lie in the sun for hours working on her "cheerleading" tan. "A nodular tumor the size of a pencil dot was just this itching, red tiny dot which grew beside a birthmark. I was just lucky a specialist saw it right in time. I was rushed into surgery within hours of the diagnosis. Out of the 23 lymph nodes removed, 18 were dark. Dark is cancer. The cancer was on its way to my major organs and I was told I would have had 6 months to live as it went through my bloodstream."
Despite the dangers, some of you refuse to give up your daily dose of sun.
"I like the sun too much," writes Debbi of Boardman, Ohio. "I won't stop tanning."
Here's what other readers had to say:
One time, in my early 20's, I melted a stick of butter, added it to baby oil and went up on the roof! I have also used Mayonnaise!
Baby Oil and Iodine!!! And we would lie on our stomachs with our heads in the shade so we wouldn't feel hot!! I finally slowed down when I got sun poisoning in Hawaii and had to add another week to my vacation and ended up sick in bed!!
— Patty Clark, Middletown, N.Y.
I starting using a tanning bed when I was 6 years old. No one knew of skin cancer and other problems it caused. I used the tanning bed 4-6 times a week, 8 months out the year... . Then 4 people in my family got skin cancer and I started to lose my eyesight. I am not totally blind, but I am legally blind in one eye, and I am being told that my cornea has been badly damaged from excessive burning. I never used eye protection, I didn't use sun block, and now I am dealing with skin cancer. It's not worth it. I haven't been to a tanning bed in 4 years now and I feel good knowing that I am not further subjecting myself to so much damage in so many ways. I wish someone would have told me so much sooner.
— Jill Brown, Lafayette, Ind.
I can tell you how my father kicked the habit.... at the age of 56 he died. As far back as I can remember he spent summers next to the pool with a book and no sun tan lotion. He worked on that tan as soon as it was warm enough to sit outside in a bathing suit. The melanoma was SO aggressive it attacked his liver. We found out a few days before Christmas and he died a few days into the following March.
— Misse, Philadelphia
I used to work at a tanning salon. I would leave there after tanning, come home, and lay in the sun. I do not use indoor tanning beds, but I still do lay outside for an hour a day during the summer. I use sunscreen and have my dermatologist check me over from head to toe once a year. The sun provides such a great feeling (I literally get depressed in the winter) that it outweighs the fact that my mom has had many pre-cancerous lesions removed.
— Carey, Baltimore, Md.
I would rub baby oil with iodine in it all over my body and sit with foil paper around the sides of my towel and sit on top of the roof on composition. I would burn to a crisp. I also played tennis for 20 years in the sun for hours. I am now 53 years old and cannot go in the sun at all. I have leg and arm/chest damage so severe I cannot wear shorts or short sleeves. I look like a monster if I do. I have 6 month Dermatology appts. for freezing off sun damage spots. It is very scary that I may develop some form of skin cancer. I have very high odds to develop skin cancer.
— Karen Rodericks, Sacramento, Calif.
On a positive note, I did listen about using sunscreen & not getting "fabulous" tans. I am now 58 1/2 years old and I have been told I look 45 years old. I make my female dermatologists cry, with envy. In my younger days, my ego would say I was not going to tan to "save my alabaster skin." It has certainly paid off. I have to show my drivers license to prove my age when I am trying to get a senior discount.
— Cynthia, Boston
I worked in tobacco fields my teenage years in NC and didn't want a farmer's tan so wore a swimsuit. I was out there from sun up to sun down, scorch on top of scorch, not to mention being doused in the occasional chemical. I cringe now at the possible damage done. I had so many burns that my skin no longer feels a sunburn if I do get one like someone else would. I've also developed photosensitivity to the sun, in which I break out in hives on my chest if I get in the sun. Needless to say I keep a close eye on my skin now for possible signs of cancer. I do spend a great deal of time in the sun still being very active, but try to protect myself now with sunscreen and hats.
— Melissa, New Mexico
I spent most of my young summers basking in baby oil and iodine, working on the "base" tan! Then I held a job once at a plastic surgeon's office and would check the patients in and work with them. It was always fun to guess how old they were and why they were there. The front girls and I got a lot of ages wrong, a lot! Many patients were my age and I guessed about 10 more plus. They were "tanners!" I saw first hand what tanning does and if you think a chemical peel or laser will make you look better, it might, but you may look like someone who had it done, still obvious.
— Tricia S., Newport Beach, Calif.
I was in a tanning competition in 1967, was I ever dark!! Then a week before the contest, I got a haircut. Then keeping up my daily tanning regiment I burned my ears, they peeled and I was disqualified. I am now 50 something and I still love the SUN. Granted I don't use baby oil and Iodine anymore but I still get very tan.
— William Holmes, Brookfield, Wis.
I wasn't a tanning addict, but I was a fair skinned girl in a Mexican family and grew up with friends who all could tan to a beautiful shade of brown. We spent all summer water skiing and camping. I always felt like I had to keep up with all of them and my family made fun of how white I was. I never tanned — I only burned. At 26 I had a basal cell skin cancer under my eye next to my nose. It was the size of a quarter and had to be closed with a skin graft from behind my ear. At the age of 32, with a 2-year-old daughter at home, I found out I had melanoma. Half of my nose was removed and a couple of lymph nodes. My nose was reconstructed with my forehead and I look normal. But every day I fear for my fair skinned daughter.
— Brandy, Encino, Calif.
My summers were spent either in the back yard or on a beach, in a swimsuit, slathered with baby oil laced with iodine to deepen the look of the tan. I came home from Florida one summer so dark that my own father didn't recognize me! I kicked the habit after enduring too many hours of painful sunburn. Now, I opt for the breezy shade of an umbrella while reading a book at poolside.
— Terri, Fort Wayne, Ind.
When I was young we put a bottle of Iodine in a bottle of Baby Oil and laid in the sun for hours listening to our radios. When I turned 28 I started nursing school and saw the horrors of skin cancer as one of my first assignments was a melanoma end stage of cancer patient named George. It was a horrible death the man suffered. The back portion of his skin was rotting being eaten away by the cancer. After taking care of George his death, I swore off all tanning.
— Lavona Wine, Vista, Calif.
I've never tanned, because I can't. My husband says I'm "allergic to the sun," I'm that pale. I rejoice at the idea of celebrities coming out against tanning. Now 28, I look much younger than other people my age and I know it's because I don't get a lot of sun exposure. (I wear sunblock everyday.) I think all people look the most beautiful when they embrace their natural colors.
— Allya, Baltimore, Md.
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