Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tanning salons in 2050

National Health Blog Post Month Day 21: Create a new technology related to health

Last week I attended a fascinating talk by TED speaker Juan Enriquez. He's a futurist--the opposite of a historian--who specializes in the future of biomedicine. One of the key points he made during his talk was that within the next year or so, genome sequencing is going to explode. This leaves us to wonder: What on earth are we going to do with all this genetic information?

To give you a little background in case you're not a science geek like me, researchers now how the power to look at all of a person's DNA collectively, which in some cases (like breast cancer for instance) can indicate whether an individual may be more susceptible to developing a certain disease. Since there seems to be a significant genetic component to melanoma (like breast cancer, it tends to run in families), perhaps genetic information could be used regulate indoor tanning usage.

Many scientists believe that in the not-too-distant future, we'll be able to walk into the doctor's office, hand them a jump drive containing our sequenced genome, and they'll be able to prescribe treatments based on our unique genetic makeup. Maybe the some data can be used for disease prevention, too.

Today's prompt asks me to create a new technology related to health. Well, here it goes: If you've been to a tanning salon at some point in the last five years or so, you may have noticed that many of them check customers in using a fingerprint scanner (my gym does this, too). What if, before you used a tanning bed, you had to scan your finger and if you're predisposed to cancer, the bed would automatically either limit or restrict you from using it? Similarly, the bed would know from a database what you natural, skin, and hair colors are, so it would time your sessions based on how long it takes for your skin to burn. The FDA currently makes recommendations on how long a person should tan based on these factors, but customers frequently exceed suggested exposure times and salons themselves don't enforce. This new technology would limit overexposure and better regulate indoor tanning.

Would this method be perfect? Of course not. Most derms will you that there's no such thing as a "healthy" tan. What this would do would limit burning (which increases melanoma risk) and restrict folks who are melanoma-prone from tanning.

Or maybe by 2050 tanning will have gone out of style. What do you think?


This post was inspired by the Day 21 prompt for National Health Blog Post Month.
View posts by other participants.


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