I see the negative effects of tanning in my plastic surgery practice every day. I am therefore planning to testify before the city council in support of a tanning ban for minors.
I equate this ordinance to that of banning the sale of cigarettes to minors. I am thinking about every piece of person I cut off that is due to tanning. yes, most of my skin cancer patients are older male laborers and farmers. but a growing percentage are young women. The usual scenario is someone coming in for wrinkles and “oh, can you peek at this spot? my mom has been bugging me about it.” The fact is all of these women started their journey to becoming skin cancer patients as young girls. this law could have protected them.
Melanoma is a killer. Just as not all smokers develop lung cancer, not all tanners will develop melanoma. but if they live long enough, they will absolutely develop some other kind of skin cancer. maybe not deadly, but potentially disfiguring. I have cut off parts of ears, noses, eyelids, lips—parts of the face that are not forgiving and require plastic surgical repair. I counsel every single patient I see to use sunscreen. The only ones who listen to me are those who do not want more wrinkles. Even patients with metastatic melanoma do not consistently wear sunscreen.
I took a tiny office poll recently asking whether anyone ever went to a tanning salon. The answer was universally “yes.” I asked why, and the most common answer was that a tan looks healthier than pale skin. I asked whether more wrinkles at a younger age would have deterred them. The answer was universally “no.” what about skin cancer? “No — I didn’t know what that really meant until I started working here.” The fact is all people will do things to look better despite health risks, in part because they cannot understand the risks until after they are diagnosed with cancer.
Parental approval is not enough protection. Most parents have no idea what harm tanning can do. The first thing I tell a facelift patient is to always wear sun protection. More often than not, the person did not know tanning was a sign of injury to the skin. “I thought it was healthy to tan!”
some adamantly continue to use a tanning bed and pay me for cosmetic services. this is how ingrained the hunger for tanned skin is in our culture. honestly, I thought the leather tan was a thing of the past, from the days of night-time soaps like “Dallas.” it is definitely still the standard of beauty. my patients who know it is unhealthy come in cowering, giving excuses if they have a tan or sunburn after vacation. Invariably, these same patients slather their children with SPF 10,000 but put nothing on themselves.