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Risks of Indoor Tanning Trigger Legislation

English: Tanning bed - an indoor Cadillac-styl...
A typical tanning bed. Image via Wikipedia

For the rest of her life, Annie Crockford will have to live with the decisions she made as a teenager; decisions that now haunt her.

Crockford began using indoor tanning beds at the age of 14. She tanned on a weekly basis for the next twelve years, which she believes attributed to her diagnosis of melanoma, said Crockford, 31.

“It’s not worth it. . . I feel like a prisoner inside myself. I don’t want to die from melanoma,” she said.

A new state law aims to prevent minors from using beds at indoor tanning salons until they become adults.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), says the legislation aims to protect minors from the harmful effects of indoor tanning.

“Tanning beds have been classified as being carcinogenic, just like cigarettes. If minors are not allowed to buy cigarettes, why should they be allowed to go into a tanning bed,” said Gabel.

Crockford wishes the law had been in place when she was a teenager.

After taking a shower one morning, Crockford noticed a red dot on her left breast. A dermatologist diagnosed her with stage two melanoma and informed her she would have to undergo surgery, said Crockford.

A large section of her breast was removed leaving behind both physical and emotional scars, said Crockford, who had to see a psychiatrist to cope with her diagnosis.

Currently, the bill makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to even enter a tanning salon.  A proposed change to the bill will allow teenagers to use alternative tanning methods, such as spray tanning, said Gabel.

If the changes are made to the bill, it will be voted on at Wednesday’s committee hearing, said Gabel.

In January, California became the first state to ban the use of indoor tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18.

A lot of people-especially parents-don’t know how dangerous it is, said Gabel.

A report published by the American Dermatological Society indicates that there is a 75 percent increased risk of developing melanoma when a person uses an indoor tanning beds.

In a statement, the American Cancer Society “recommends people avoid tanning beds altogether.”

A 2011 report by the American Cancer Society indicates, “Melanoma is responsible for most skin cancer deaths, though it accounts for less than five percent of all skin cancer cases.”

According to an investigative report conducted by the U.S. House of Representatives, 90 percent of salons stated that indoor tanning did not pose a health risk.  The report indicated that the tanning industry has provided “false and misleading health information to teens.”

According the report, some salons claimed that some of the health benefits from indoor tanning include “treatment of depression and low self-esteem, prevention of and treatment for arthritis, weight loss, prevention of osteoporosis. . .”

However, John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said the investigators who completed the report did not have a set standard in how the information was gathered.  “We got several reports that they asked leading questions,” said Overstreet.

“My sympathies go to her (Crockford), and I’m sure she thinks that (she developed cancer from indoor tanning).  The government can’t make policy based on what people think.  There is absolutely no science that supports that (claim),” said Overstreet.

“The bottom line is that no one really knows the truth,” Overstreet said.  There is science that supports both sides of the issue, he said.

Illinois is one of the most highly regulated states, and what the bill proposes is an over-breach of government regulation, said Overstreet.

Parents should be allowed to make the decision as to whether or not their teenager can use an indoor tanning bed, Overstreet said.

Several other states have similar bills pending. Most states require that a parent sign a consent form to allow their minor children between the ages of 14 to 18 to use an indoor tanning bed.

Since her initial surgery, Crockford has found two other cancerous spots, she said.

Although Crockford doesn’t have melanoma presently, she will have to undergo a full head to toe invasive body scan every three months for the rest of her life, she said.

“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about my melanoma,” said Crockford.

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