I read the report from Congress’ House Energy and Commerce Committee with great interest. They used interns to call 300 tanning salons—at least 3 in each state and the District of Columbia—and asked salon staff questions about tanning safety. Presenting themselves as a 16 year old girl with blond hair and fair skin, they asked if tanning was dangerous and how much they could tan.
To understand the significance of these questions, it is important to remember a few facts:
Given that context, the results of this study are striking. Of the salons contacted, 90% said tanning beds pose no health hazards. Four out of five reported that tanning beds offer health benefits, including many who said that using indoor tanning could actually help prevent cancer.
Tanning salon workers assured callers that fair-skinned teen age girls had nothing to fear, and suggested (in violation of the industry’s own internal policies) that it was ok to tan every day. Investigators also pointed to marketing and pricing campaigns specifically targeting young women.
I worry about young men and women who fall into the tanning trap, who believe the lies and the false advertising and are seduced into exposing themselves to harmful UV radiation. Fortunately, most of them will experience nothing more than early wrinkles and saggy skin as they age. But some will face a far more serious challenge—skin cancer.
If they are lucky it will turn out to be basal cell or squamous cell, which are rarely deadly. They may face a lifetime of having these tumors shaved off their arms, scalps, and faces—but those cancers will not end their life.
But if they are not lucky, it could turn out to be melanoma—the deadliest skin cancer. And melanoma doesn’t fight fair. It doesn’t wait for people to live their lives, get old and enjoy their grandkids. It kills teens. It kills young adults. It kills newlyweds, budding careerists and brand new parents.
When this happens, MRF will be there for them, as we have been all along. We will connect them to the other young people who are in this battle. We will push for more research so they can have better treatments to win their fight and live their lives. We will help them tell their story so maybe, just maybe they can stop others from making the choices they made.