Despite previous news reports underscoring the link between tanning beds and melanoma skin cancer, young women (under the age of thirty-five) are still enthusiastically tanning.
Chances are, you know someone who has been or will be diagnosed with melanoma, because according to a new study released by the CDC and published in the online issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, many young white women are still frequenting tanning beds on a regular basis.
For the survey, high school girls who used tanning beds were asked to clarify how frequently they used them. 29.3% said they visited a tanning bed at least once a year, while 16.7% admitted to going at least 10 times (classified as “frequently”) during a twelve month period. Of adult women under the age of 35, 24.9% stated they went at least once a year, and 15% went frequently.
This is of concern, because a woman under the age of 35 who uses tanning beds increases her risk of developing melanoma skin cancer, the most serious type of skin cancer, by 75%; she doubles her risk for other types of skin cancer.
It Can Happen
I personally know two young women who were diagnosed at 25 and 21, respectively. The 25 year old, “Lauren,” was diagnosed two years ago; fortunately, she was very astute in noticing a mole on her thigh that “looked funny.” She went to a dermatologist who told her that the mole didn’t present as melanoma usually does, but she sent it to the lab anyway.
Good thing she did. The dermatologist was just as surprised by the lab results as her young patient. Since the cancer was on the surface of the skin only, a simple office procedure took care of the problem.
The second patient, “Dana” found out she had melanoma simply through a routine pregnancy checkup — especially scary because melanoma can cross the placenta. Thankfully, this did not happen in her case, but the cancer had penetrated into her muscle — part of it had to be removed.
These are cautionary tales. Lauren hadn’t been to a tanning bed in 6 years when she was diagnosed. And, she didn’t go that often, nor did she go a great number of times, period. Dana was incredibly fortunate that she was pregnant; her ob/gyn noticed the mole.
Bottom line: if you use tanning beds, please reconsider doing so. And, even if you no longer go to a tanning bed but did when you were very young, be diligent about checking for changes in your skin. This could, quite literally, save it.