Last week I had surgery to remove a small spot of skin cancer from my upper lip.
Now I’m the kind of person who likes to understand any kind of ailment I’m facing, I like to know treatments, understand how they work, learn about causes, outcomes, side effects…. everything I can.
So when I got my diagnosis of skin cancer I went to work learning everything I could. One thing I learned, was that tanning beds were a huge cause of skin cancer, in fact that was the first question the Dr. had asked me, “Have you ever gone to the tanning bed?”
At the same time I was soaking up as much information as possible Anthony’s High School was in full Prom mode.
“Every girl in my school looks like she rolled around in Doritos.” He said one day when he came home, “they’ve all been tanning for weeks.”
It hit me. These girls were tanning, getting ready to be beautiful for their prom and putting themselves at huge risk for skin cancer.
While the school was putting on programs raising awareness of underage drinking and doing their best to save kids lives, there was another huge threat facing the students that no one was looking at.
And one that their parents were accommodating, even making appointments for.
I realize that is one of those things that any teenager you ask would laugh it off, and think that it could never happen to them. That it’s harmless, no big deal. (Isn’t that what they think about everything though?)
But it is. And parents need to be aware and put their foot down just like they do about smoking or drinking.
Why? Because Melanoma kills one person every hour in the U.S.
Because more skin cancer is caused by tanning beds than lung cancer is caused by smoking. (Get more info here)
Let that sink in…By allowing your teenage daughter to lay in a tanning bed you are giving her a higher risk of cancer then you would if you handed her a pack of cigarettes.
Is it worth it? Could you, like me, never lay in a tanning bed, and end up with skin cancer? Yes. But why increase your risk? Why almost guarantee it? You could never smoke and end up with lung cancer but is that going to make you light up?
And let me tell you from personal experience non-melanoma skin cancers may not seem like a big deal, but it is not something you want to go through.
It is not something you want your daughter to go through so that she could look good in her prom dress.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging parents to be aware. They are working on passing laws to make tanning under the age of 18 illegal. In fact tanning under the age of 18 increases your risk of skin cancer even more dramatically
With self tanners that have come a long way, many salons offering spray tans, there are plenty of alternatives to a dangerous practice that can cause health issues for years to come.
Another brave mom recently posted a selfie showing the results of her skin cancer treatment, hers was a result of tanning at a young age. At only 27 the damage is extensive and the treatments painful.
I am a huge believer in letting kids make their own decisions. Letting them color and cut their hair the way they want, letting them dress the way they want, letting them be who they want to be.
But I also think that there are some things that we just have to say no to. The things that will harm them, that they don’t realize have long term effects, the things that we know better about.
So as a mom and as a person who has just gone through skin cancer removal, I urge you to see tanning beds in the same light as you do a pack of cigarettes. That tan just isn’t worth it.