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Whenever the sun is out and the clouds are not, the impulse that unfailingly rushes through me wonders one thing: How soon can I get to the pool? There is, of course, the chocolate-brown tan seeker in all of us; however, the sun’s rays produce health risks that must be acknowledged. Sunscreen serves to protect against this potential wrath of Mother Nature. The short-term pleasure of dark skin is no match for the long-term happiness and health that sunscreen often provides.

A lavish afternoon spent lying in the sun can be one of the most delightful ways a day can possibly be spent. Many would agree. The sun’s heat will dry any recently pool-dipped body so perfectly they will have trouble keeping their eyes open. If this does not define “relaxation,” I don’t know what does. The immediate gratification of a gorgeous tan is tempting, I admit. One of my favorite sentences to receive is, “You are so tan; you look great!” This is the sentence that continually grabs me by the hand and leads me to my lawn chair day after day. But in the long run, is it really worth it?

Research tells us that the sun has the ability to alter chemicals in the brain that affect our current emotion. Increasing chemicals like Serotonin can produce a happy feeling we might become slightly addicted to. It is the same process, scientists claim, that explains alcoholism or a runner’s high. However, nothing is as good as it seems, especially with regard to the sun.

The sun dispenses ultraviolet radiation that has been said to increase the chances of developing sunburn, skin cancers, cataracts, and premature aging; it is also responsible for a weakening immune system. Our exposure to UV radiation has increased due to changes in our lifestyle as well as the depletion of the ozone layer. It is estimated that more than 72,000 new cases of skin cancers were diagnosed throughout Canada in 2002. More than 800 people died from a kind of skin cancer known as melanoma. UV radiation also weakens the immune system and decreases the body’s ability to fight cancerous cells. It can even damage DNA.

Luckily, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB radiation if it has SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more. Most sunscreens are comprised of organic chemicals that absorb various wavelengths of UV light. If sunscreen is used on a regular basis during the first eighteen years of life, it could reduce the chance of getting non-melanoma skin cancers by 78 percent. This is why it is extremely important to keep children lathered in sunscreen, reapplying every two hours.

In addition to obvious health issues, the lasting benefits of sunscreen outweigh the immediate with regard to appearance. A suntan is, no doubt, a quick fix and a confidence booster. But over the years it results in droops, wrinkles, and leather-like skin. Sunscreen preserves the skin, and the result is usually a healthier and younger appearance.

There appears to be overwhelming evidence that sunscreen should be one of the most important and required bits of sunbathing gear and should be packed snuggly between the bottled water and your book. A delicious tan is enticing, yet still can be obtained in a slower, healthier process involving sunscreen. Besides, underestimating the sun leaves you a color that resembles a lobster. It is clear that the pleasure of an instant tan cannot compare to the long-term health that sunscreen often leads to. Without this, there are no longer any days for all those other short-term pleasures to indulge in, like chocolate and great songs.