As a melanoma survivor, I know the pain and uncertainty of going through treatment. My melanoma was probably caused by years of being outdoors as a kid before sunscreen was invented. I am grateful for the treatment I received at Johns Hopkins Hospital that saved my life, and I now volunteer for the American Cancer Society to help others. I must now wear lots of sunblock and a hat any time I will be in the sun for more than a few moments.
Prevention is one of the best ways to fight melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Maryland's melanoma rate is among the highest in the country. We don't live in the Sunbelt so there has to be another explanation.
One reason has to be indoor tanning. Studies have shown that indoor tanning use before the age of 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. You can look around our local shopping centers, especially those near college campuses and high schools, and see the indoor tanning businesses that appeal to youth. Prom season is coming up, and many high school girls will get indoor tans because they think tans look good with their prom gowns. Exposure to UV radiation increases skin cancer risk, and indoor tanning uses UV radiation. Around one-third of high school girls report using tanning beds, according to the CDC, and those numbers are growing.
The Maryland General Assembly is about to begin debate on this issue. The assembly has an opportunity to save lives by prohibiting the use of cancer-causing UV tanning devices by youth under the age of 18. We protect our minors from the dangers of cigarettes and alcohol by placing restrictions on their access; we should do the same with indoor tanning.
I urge our lawmakers to pass the indoor tanning ban for children under the age of 18.
James A. Higbee