Our Passion, Your Health

Our Passion | Your Health features stories on the latest happenings at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Check out our blogs, recipes, patient stories, program highlights, and new services that represent our passion...your health.

Body Zone Lunch and Learns Draw Capacity Crowds

In an effort to target community members where they are, Penn State Health St. Joseph sponsored a series of five Lunch and Learn programs earlier this year at the Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex in Reading.

With topics such as coronary artery disease, obesity management and the importance of exercise after menopause, the sessions drew capacity crowds eager to hear from providers.

“Not only did we fill the meeting room for each presentation, but the offices represented saw new appointments made as a direct result of the provider education,” says Julia Nickey, regional director, marketing and communications. “We’re already looking at increasing the number of programs we offer, when our contract comes up for renewal.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph also will explore evening programs as it develops future Lunch and Learn offerings.

“We want to attract different Body Zone members as well as the lunch crowd and are considering sports medicine as a topic for the 5 to 7 p.m. crowd,” Nickey says. “One of the biggest benefits of this program is that we are reaching a new audience within our community, but we’re meeting them where they want to be reached — at a favorite meeting spot.”

College of Medicine Awarded Grant to Promote Healthy Lifestyles and Improve Nutrition in Lebanon and Berks Counties

Penn State College of Medicine has received a nearly $4 million grant to promote healthy lifestyles and improve nutrition for Hispanic people living in Berks and Lebanon counties. The award is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s REACH project and will be administered locally by Penn State PRO Wellness, a collaboration between the College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and Penn State Children’s Hospital.

PRO Wellness is working with Better Together, a Lebanon County organization, as well as Penn State Berks and Penn State Health St. Joseph to reduce health disparities related to nutrition and physical activity among Hispanics living in Lebanon and Reading. The grant will help PRO Wellness establish healthy nutrition standards in Lebanon and Reading, provide healthier food access at community venues and increase electronic benefit transfer acceptance. It will also help create bilingual hospital-based breastfeeding programming and support with Women, Infant and Children (WIC).

To improve opportunities for physical activity, PRO Wellness and partners will promote existing and new trails for walking and biking that connect parks, schools, businesses and community facilities. The grant will also support improvement of Lebanon and Reading’s recreational infrastructure to increase school involvement in physical activities, as well as expand diabetes prevention program offerings and train local, bilingual community health workers to connect individuals with chronic disease prevention programs.

The Better Together initiative, founded by philanthropist Jeanne Arnold, a former nurse and hospital administrator in Lebanon County, creates opportunities for better health and quality of life by aligning state agencies, schools, community-based organizations and policymakers to reduce obesity rates.

“Better Together’s goal is a healthier community for all. We know from research that Hispanic people are more likely to experience a higher prevalence of chronic diseases than non-Hispanic whites, and in Lebanon and Reading, Hispanics also experience higher levels of poverty, unemployment and a lack of health insurance than the state and national averages,” Arnold said. “This grant will provide resources to unite organizations, ideas and endeavors to address these issues.”

Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, executive director of PRO Wellness and associate professor of medicine, pediatrics and public health sciences at the College of Medicine, and Dr. William Calo, assistant professor of public health sciences at the College of Medicine, will co-lead the project.

“Penn State Health is proud to be a partner in this important endeavor for our region,” said Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health and senior vice president for health affairs at Penn State. “Multiple community health needs assessments have prioritized chronic diseases, obesity and inadequate nutrition as areas of concern in Lebanon and Reading. Working together, we will improve nutrition and access to physical activities to better the overall health for residents of these areas.”

Penn State PRO Wellness is committed to education and inspiring youth and their families to eat well, engage in regular physical activity and become champions for bringing healthy choices to life.

Cooking Demonstration Attracts a Crowd at Downtown Campus

The summer squash salad with herbs was met with approval during a recent tasting in the lobby of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus, with some people returning for a second serving.

“This is really good,” one woman commented. “I don’t think I’ve ever had this kind of squash before.”

And that, according to Chef Chris Dibiase, nutrition services manager at Penn State Health St. Joseph, is just the point of the Downtown program.

“We want to introduce people to vegetables that they may not be familiar with, Dibiase said. “The point is to encourage people to seek out and eat these healthy foods.”

The cooking demonstration and tasting program, held on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2 p.m., was started in June as an outreach to city residents, explained Lisa Weaver, Healthy Community Program associate for Penn State Health St. Joseph. The hospital also offers a farm market each Tuesday from noon until 4 p.m. at its Downtown Campus.

“That way, people who taste whatever we’re offering on a particular Tuesday can just walk a few feet and purchase the vegetables they just ate,” Weaver said. “The goal is to get them to use these healthy foods when they cook at home.”

The market, located in a room just off of the lobby, is offered in partnership with the organic farm at Blue Mountain Academy in Tilden Township. It is open to anyone, with cash, checks, credit and debit cards and SNAP accepted for payment.

Patients who are part of St. Joseph’s Veggie Rx initiative, an innovative program that offers vouchers that can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables to patients suffering from conditions such as diabetes or obesity, also can use their vouchers at the farm market.

“We want to provide better access to fruits and vegetables for people who could benefit from them,” said Nicole Rhoads, a registered dietician with Penn State Health St. Joseph.

The Veggie Rx program is designed to expand patient knowledge of nutrition while increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, Rhoads explained. Vouchers also can be redeemed for produce at the Penn Street Market.

Offering portions of healthy foods to people who are coming and going at the Downtown Campus works toward both of those goals.

“People who try these healthy foods not only get the nutritional information about them, they also get to experience how delicious they are,” Weaver said.

In addition to the herbed squash salad offered at the Downtown Campus tastings, Chef Dibiase has served up a kale salad with chicken, a jicama slaw and an edamame salad. All of them were well received, particularly the kale salad.

“Some people were a little hesitant at first because they didn’t know what it was – they’d never eaten kale before,” Dibiase said. “But, once they tried it, they loved it.”

The next tasting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Summer Squash Salad with Herbs

  • 2 pounds zucchini and yellow squash (about 2 of each), halved lengthwise and sliced ½-inch thick
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup water, room temperature
  • ¼ cup olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients until combined. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Serve cold.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Chronic Affliction

By Amal Kebede, DO, Penn State Health St. Joseph Rheumatologist
This article appeared in Women2Women Magazine, Fall 2018 edition

More than 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Today, I am a rheumatologist who helps others manage their own chronic rheumatologic illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis. While no one wishes to have a chronic disease, my diagnosis dramatically shaped my life choices as I experienced the medical system firsthand at an early age and decided to pursue a career in medicine. My experience has also given me perspective and a unique insight into the kind of obstacles my patients experience daily. While dealing with a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, can be enormously challenging, I believe that all things are possible when we work together, and I want to empower my patients to believe this, too.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system, which is the body’s defense system, loses its ability to differentiate between what is part of its body and what is foreign. This results in the immune system attacking the body. It is believed that genetics and environmental factors both play a role in developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. While rheumatoid arthritis can develop in a person of any age group, it is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of forty to sixty years of age, with a higher proportion of women as compared to men.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body attacks the lining of the joint, which is called the synovium, causing swelling, redness, and pain of the affected joints. This is different than osteoarthritis, which is the wear and tear related arthritis that we will all develop if we become old enough. Rheumatoid arthritis typically involves the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, but can progress to involve other joints. Although rheumatoid arthritis is primarily a joint disease, it can also involve other internal organs such as the eyes, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Rheumatoid arthritis can have other complications including osteoporosis – thinning of the bones which increases the risk of breaking a bone, rheumatoid nodules – lesions under the skin, dry eyes and mouth, carpal tunnel syndrome – numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, and lymphoma – a blood cancer.

Patients usually present to their medical providers with complaints of pain and swelling. The patient’s history, physical exam, and additional data such as laboratory tests (rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrinillated peptide antibodies) and x-rays can help to make this diagnosis. Many pieces of the puzzle have to fit together in order to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment usually involves medications, lifestyle modifications, and therapy.

Medications are often required to control rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint deformity. Early aggressive treatment is required to help reduce the risk of irreversible joint damage which can cause pain, decreased mobility, and disability. There have been dramatic advancements in the medications for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis over the past twenty years, with many additional medications in the pipeline. The major classes of medications include Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARD’s) and biologics. Many treatment options are available – but each treatment plan needs to be tailored to each patient’s specific needs. Working together with your healthcare provider is critical to obtaining successful treatment outcomes.

Additional treatments such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise, adequate rest, and counseling may also be needed. As with any chronic illness, getting a new diagnosis can be challenging – both physically and emotionally. Addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of the disease is integral to any treatment plan. Unfortunately, the emotional and mental components of these illnesses are often overlooked in favor of more tangible treatment options. Often, consulting a psychologist to help discuss fears and concerns as well as develop coping skills is helpful in processing the diagnosis and managing the treatment of any chronic illness, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Overall, although having rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, it is important to note that people with rheumatoid arthritis can still live productive, independent lives.

Tips for all patients:

  • Be involved in your healthcare. Take the time to learn about your disease process, the treatments you’re on, and the natural course of the disease.
  • Be your own advocate. Speak up about your symptoms and concerns.
  • Ask questions. Medicine is a different language. If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
  • Have a positive attitude. Studies show that positive attitudes improve outcomes and life satisfaction. Not always seeing the glass half full? Try simple things like recognizing a positive event each day, recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily, and smile.

Amal Kebede, DO, Rheumatologist If you are experience pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints, contact Penn State Health St. Joseph Rheumatology for an appointment with Dr. Kebede at 610-378-2996.

Love Salt? You Just Might be a Supertaster

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences food scientists discovered several years ago why some people have a harder time than others passing up the salt shaker or enjoying low-salt foods.

People who use lots of salt may be genetically influenced to do so, researchers learned. That’s because some people are naturally more sensitive to tastes such as bitterness or spiciness, and may use more salt to alter or cover those tastes.

For instance, salt is added to many cheeses to mask bitter flavors that occur naturally during the cheese’s ripening process. Someone who is particularly sensitive to the taste of those bitter flavors may not enjoy a low-salt cheese because there’s not enough salt to offset the bitterness of the cheese.

Scientists have known for many years that, just as individuals differ in hair color or eye color, there is a wide range in one’s ability to taste certain compounds. While some people are extremely sensitive to tastes such as sweetness, spiciness and saltiness, others barely detect them.

Those with extremely sensitive taste buds are known as supertasters, while those who do not easily perceive taste are known as non-tasters.

Supertasters tend to ingest more salt both because they enjoy the flavor of it, leading them to eat more salty foods, and because they use salt to mask other flavors that they find unpleasant.

The problem with that, of course, said Nicole Rhoads, a Penn State Health St. Joseph Registered Dietician, is that eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, increasing the possibility of stroke and heart attacks, and may cause other health problems. It’s recommended that adults and children 14 years and older consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day – about what’s found in one teaspoon of salt.

Those with hypertension should aim at consuming considerably less than that amount.

That can be difficult to do, Rhoads explained, because salt is prevalent in prepared foods, including condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, pickles, olives and bottled salad dressing.

Convenience foods, snack foods and fast foods also tend to be very high in sodium.

One slice of pizza chain pepperoni pizza, for instance, might contain more than 800 milligrams of sodium, more than one-third of the recommended daily limit. The same goes for a bowl of canned soup.

So, regardless of whether you’re a supertaster or non-taster, how can you limit the amount of salt you consume? Here are some general tips Rhoads provided.

  • Avoid processed foods and convenience foods such as canned soup and frozen dinners
  • Eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, such as fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins, unprocessed meats and low-fat dairy items
  • Omit salt from recipes when cooking
  • Use fresh herbs and spices to flavor foods, or an herb seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash
  • Read food labels and choose low-sodium products over those containing a lot of salt
  • Prepare most of the food you consume at home
  • Find low-sodium recipes from reputable sources on line and try them out

Find out more from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ tip sheet on “Eating Right with Less Salt”.

Nicole Rhoads, RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian If you are interested in individual outpatient nutrition counseling, contact Nicole at 610-378-2489 or NRhoads@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or schedule an appointment at 610-378-2100.

Fear of Missing Out Can Negatively Impact Your Life.

If you’re constantly checking Facebook, desperate to see where your friends are and what they’re doing, and then becoming upset when you discover they’re having dinner without you, you may be suffering from a condition known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”

Dr. Krista Schenkel, a family practitioner who serves as medical director of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Strausstown facility, spoke about FOMO recently during a program offered by Women2Women.

St. Joseph is a founding, presenting sponsor of Women2Women, an organization managed by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry that works to help empower women to become leaders in our community.

FOMO, Schenkel explained, is a form of social anxiety disorder that is becoming increasingly prevalent as use of social media increases. By some accounts, nearly three-quarters of young adults in the United States report experiencing the phenomenon of FOMO.

It is particularly common among those between the ages of 13 and 33.

FOMO can result from the perception that other people are having more fun, or are happier than you are, Schenkel said. In their social media posts, friends may appear to be engaging in exciting activities, seemingly without a care in the world.

However, Schenkel related, social media posts often portray an idealized version of the truth.

“Let’s face it. Most social media posts are not giving the entire truth,” she said. “Anyone can put anything on social media and make their life sound amazing.”
Schenkel referred to her own experience in Disney World, showing a photo of herself with her husband and daughter that she’d posted on Facebook. The photo, she explained, was taken after a very long day. They all were exhausted, with their 3-year-old nearing a meltdown.

In the photo, however, the family appeared to be having a great time.

“We looked so happy, but really we were miserable!” she said.

A danger of the FOMO syndrome is that it tends to cause people to spend more time on social media, taking them away from the really important aspects of their lives.

According to Schenkel, the life of a typical woman contains five priorities: career, sleep, daily obligations, family and social activities.

Once the obligatory parts of a woman’s day are done, such as working, errands, commuting and sleeping, there are not many hours left. That means that it’s really important to carefully consider how those hours are spent.

Using that time for social media can minimize time you spend with your family and friends, and limit activities that you enjoy and make your life ultimately valuable
“Sometimes we get so caught up with what we’re seeing on line that we’re not being involved in the real world,” Schenkel said.

While she is not opposed to Facebook and other forms of social media, Schenkel said it’s important that users are in control of how they use it.

Employing Facebook to organize a hike with friends, and then attending and enjoying the hike is a positive use of social media. However, skipping the hike to stay home and engage in social media is not.

“I’m not saying that Facebook is an evil thing,” Schenkel said. “I’m just saying that you need to be careful about how you utilize it.”

While FOMO seems to be affecting an increasing number of people, there is an opposing movement – JOMO – that also seems to be gaining traction.

JOMO, Schenkel explained, stands for “joy of missing out,” and embraces disconnecting from technology and living in the moment in an attempt to find a balance between the two things.

JOMO allows you to move at your own pace, Schenkel said, and to pay attention to what is happening right now, such as the feel of warm sunshine, the sound of your children’s laughter or the smell of your first cup of morning coffee.

“Those are the things that we should fear missing out on,” she said.

Schenkel reminded the women at her talk that when they are 80 years old and looking back on their lives, they will not regret that they didn’t receive more “likes” on Facebook.

“But, what you may regret is not living out your personal truth or spending more time with the people you love,” she said. “We need to be aware of our priorities so we can all make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Want to find your FOMO score? Take this quiz!

Krista Schenkel, DO Looking for a new family physician that gets what you’re going through? Dr. Schenkel practices at Penn State Health St. Joseph Strausstown and is currently accepting new patients. Schedule an appointment at 610-488-7080.

Activity on Social Media can Help Older Adults Feel Less Isolated and More Empowered

In a study of Facebook use, older adults who posted a lot of personal stories on the social networking site felt a higher sense of community, and the more they customized their profiles, the more in control they felt, said S. Shyam Sundar, Penn State distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. He added that the study suggests that using social media is not a uniform experience that is either all bad, or all good, but offers multiple functions for diverse users.

“People tend to think of Facebook as a black box that either has an overall positive effect or a negative effect, but what distinguishes this study is that it makes an effort to go in and see what people do in Facebook — and that’s what matters,” said Sundar. “So, in other words, social media, by itself, is neither good, nor bad, but it’s how you use it.”

For older adults, who may be less mobile, Facebook and similar social networking sites could play a critical role in easing isolation and making them feel like they are part of a large community, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the journal New Media & Society.

“This is important, especially for older adults who might be aging in place, because they have mobility constraints that limit their ability to socialize,” said Sundar. “And, for the last ten years or so, we’ve been looking into how social networking sites can enhance the social life of older adults and reduce the social isolation that they might feel. These are more fine-grained findings that say certain things you do on Facebook can give you gratifications, like fulfilling the needs for activity, having interactions with others, having a greater sense of agency, and building community.”

The researchers also suggested that commenting on and responding to posts gave older users a feeling of social interaction.

Eun Hwa Jung, formerly a doctoral student at Penn State and currently assistant professor of communications and new media, National University of Singapore, who worked with Sundar, said older adults are increasingly adopting social media, in general, and are a growing number of Facebook’s total membership. According to Pew research, 34 percent of Americans aged 65 years and older use social networks in 2017, an increase of 7 percent from 2016. Facebook is considered the most popular social network among older adults, the researchers add.

Given the widespread diffusion of Facebook in this group, understanding what gratifications older adults derive from particular technological features helps designers develop better user interfaces suited for them, Jung said.

“It can improve online interactions between individuals from different generations,” she added.

According to Sundar, developers of social media networks should consider the needs of this growing group of users. For example, they should create features that enhance the identity of older adults while simultaneously protecting their privacy. More features that encourage older adults to exchange and visualize messages with others could also make sites more interactive for this group.

To collect the data, the researchers recruited 202 participants — 79.7 percent female and 20.3 percent male — who were 60 years and older and used Facebook for at least a year. The participants were recruited from 27 retirement centers throughout the United States.

The researchers “friended” the participants on Facebook so they could count the number of times they used the various tools in the site during the past year. The participants were also asked to respond to a questionnaire that captured the gratifications they obtained from Facebook.

Future research may look at whether these positive interactions on Facebook could lead to the enhancement of well-being for seniors, Sundar said. The researchers also suggested that the effects of other social media outlets, such as Twitter and Pinterest, as well as other mobile and wearable devices, on older adults should be investigated.

Test the study for yourself by connecting with Penn State Health St. Joseph on social media! Meet us on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter.

150 Minutes to a Healthier Life

Who is ready to hang up the winter coats, put away the snow boots and get off the couch? It’s hard to believe that spring is here, but it is. This is the perfect time to get outside and restart our New Year’s resolution to exercise.

Penn State Health St. Joseph is here to help! We created a program, FIT150, that encourages everyone to “fit” in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or

75 minutes of vigorous exercise) every week as recommended by the top heart and cancer research centers. 150 minutes is only 2 hours and 30 minutes – less than the time it takes to binge 3 episodes of This Is Us!

This formula has the following benefits:

  • Reduces the risk of some cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Elevates your mood
  • Increases your energy levels
  • Strengthen bones and muscles.

How does this break down?

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150. If your time is limited, split the 30 minutes into a 15 m
    inute morning and an evening session.
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

What is Moderate Aerobic Exercise?

Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, tennis doubles, spring cleaning, swimming, and mowing the lawn.

What is Vigorous Aerobic Exercise?

Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, cycling, tennis singles, and playing soccer and basketball.

There is an exercise routine for everyone. Find something you like to do, and it suddenly doesn’t feel like a dreaded activity. You will see results and feel good about those 150 or 75 minutes a week.

Hard to get started? Engage a friend, family member or a co-worker to take the FIT150 pledge with you. Together, you will be on the road to fitness and improved health.

We are proud to be partners with some local fitness centers YMCA, BLDG. 7 Yoga and Corps Fitness. If you take our FIT150 pledge, we’ll email you free gym passes.  Put your sneakers on, take the pledge and get moving! http://www.thefutureofhealthcare.org/fit150/

10 Real Life Situations Our Nutrition Services Team Can Help

Penn State Health St. Joseph Nutrition Services are offered by Registered Dietitians. Unlike others that offer advice on nutrition and diet, Registered Dietitians have completed rigorous education and testing standards. St. Joseph Registered Dietitians have the unique qualifications to ‘clear the air’ around nutrition misinformation and provide sound, easy-to-follow nutrition advice.

Not sure when to seek Nutrition Services? Here are the Top 10 Life Situations where we can help.

You have diabetes, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, or food allergies. We serve as an integral part of your health-care team by helping you safely change your eating plan without compromising taste or nutrition.

You have digestive problems. We will work with your physician to help fine-tune your diet so you are not aggravating your condition with fried foods, too much caffeine or carbonation.

You’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. We can help make sure you get nutrients like folate, especially during the first three months of pregnancy, lowering your newborn’s risk for neural tube or spinal cord defects.

You need to gain or lose weight. We can suggest additional calorie sources for healthy weight gain or a restricted-calorie eating plan plus regular physical activity for weight loss while allowing you to still eat all your favorite foods.

You want to eat smarter. We’ll help you sort through misinformation; learn how to read labels at the supermarket; discover that healthy cooking is inexpensive; and learn how to eat out without ruining your eating plan and how to resist workplace temptations.

You are thinking of having or have had gastric bypass surgery. Since your stomach can only manage small servings, it’s a challenge to get the right amount of nutrients in your body. We will work with you and your physician to develop an eating plan for your new needs.

You need guidance and confidence for breastfeeding your baby. We can help make sure you’re getting enough iron, vitamin D, fluoride, and B vitamins for you and your little one.

Your teenager has issues with food and eating healthfully. We can assist with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and overweight issues.

You’re caring for an aging parent. We’ll help with food or drug interaction, proper hydration, special diets for hypertension and changing taste buds for aging parents.

You want to improve your performance in sports. Running a marathon? Planning a skiing vacation? We can help you set goals to achieve results.

Nutrition Services
Appointments available in Bern Township and the city of Reading. Call to learn more! 610-378-2976

What to Know Before Seeking that “Healthy Glow”

It’s been a cold and windy spring, and everyone is ready for some sunshine.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a jump on the season with a visit to a tanning salon, however, you might want to think again.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that indoor tanning is no safer for your skin than being in the sun outdoors, because in both cases you’re exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage skin and can cause skin cancer.

Consider this information from the CDC.

  • Indoor tanning is especially dangerous for young people, who, according to research, are some of the most likely users of tanning beds or booths. The CDC concluded that those who begin tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have higher risk of developing melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the second most common cancer in women between 20 and 29 years old.
  • A base tan is not a safe tan. While many believe that a tan can protect you from getting sunburned, if you have a tan, the damage has already been done. Tanning is your skin’s response to injury from UV rays, and it does little to protect you from further exposure.
  • Tanned skin is not healthy skin. Many people report that they feel healthier when their skin is tanned. But, the concept of a “healthy glow” is nothing more than a myth, according to the CDC, because every time you tan or burn, you expose yourself to harmful UV rays and increase your risk of melanoma.
  • While some claim that indoor tanning is safe because you can control your level of exposure to UV rays, research has found that indoor tanning exposes you to intense UV levels. Thousands of people each year require visits to hospitals due to injuries caused by tanning beds.
  • The most dangerous types of UV rays cause changes to the DNA in cells, and experts believe that those changes are likely the cause of skin cancers. Weaker UV rays are less likely to cause cancer, but can result in long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, blotches and changes in the texture of the skin.
  • Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and, unlike many other cancers, it’s increasing in frequency. Protect yourself from dangerous UV rays by avoiding tanning salons and covering up when you’re in sunshine outdoors. Wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UV light, and use sunscreen with “broad spectrum” protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. And, remember that UV rays are at their peak between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so avoid the sun during those times.

Patty Kelly, Physician Referral Specialist Need to find a physician, program, or medical practice close to home? Call Patty Kelly, Physician Referral Specialist, & let her help you find the perfect fit.
610-378-2001   |   toll free 844-363-0882   |   FindAPhysician@PennStateHealth.psu.edu