Throughout the country, in every state, territory and Washington D.C., ACS CAN staff and volunteers have hit the ground running in 2017, working with local lawmakers to pass and implement public health policies proven to have the highest impact in saving lives from cancer.
Don’t Fry Day: Oklahoma, West Virginia Join the List of States Protecting Minors from Indoor Tanning
The unofficial start to summer begins the Friday before Memorial Day with Don’t Fry Day – a day to raise awareness about sun safety and the dangers of tanning. As the weather gets warmer and we begin to spend more time outdoors, it’s important to remember that protecting our skin from the damaging and sometimes deadly effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the first step in preventing skin cancer.
Skin cancer is a largely preventable disease, but it continues to be the most common type of cancer in the United States, with an estimated 5 million Americans diagnosed each year. Exposure to UV radiation, through indoor tanning devices or overexposure to sunlight, is one of the most avoidable risk factors for skin cancer.
At ACS CAN, we’re working in the states to save lives from skin cancer through laws that prohibit teenage use of tanning devices. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of ACS CAN volunteers, Oklahoma and West Virginia passed laws this year to prohibit the use of tanning devices for everyone under the age of 18. With their passage, 15 states and the District of Columbia have adopted comprehensive indoor tanning laws.
As we celebrate these great accomplishments, it’s important to consider the effort it took to get these laws passed. These efforts were multi-year campaigns that required extensive public and lawmaker education about indoor tanning misconceptions – for example, that melanoma is not an issue for young people. In fact, studies show using an indoor tanning device before the age of 35 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 59 percent.
As our Oklahoma team will tell you, personal stories resonated most with lawmakers during this year’s campaign. Traci Stackhouse and Ashley Watts had very different melanoma stories, but had the same message: preventing children from using indoor tanning devices will save lives.
Traci is a two-time melanoma survivor and started tanning when she was 14. Traci says her mom would take her to tan three or four times a week when she was a kid. But after a metastatic melanoma diagnosis at age 34, Traci’s mom now says she never would have allowed her daughter to tan - let alone taken her to the tanning salon - had she known the dangers of indoor tanning.
Ashley’s sister, Maddy, died from melanoma when she was 19 and a college freshman. Maddy had used tanning beds as a teenager because she thought they were harmless. After her sister’s death, Ashley joined organizations like ACS CAN dedicated to raising awareness about the dangerous and deadly effects of tanning.
I want to thank Traci, Ashley and all of our other volunteers for sharing their personal stories about the dangers of tanning. Together we can continue to educate lawmakers and pass laws that protect our nation’s youth, prevent future skin cancer diagnoses and save lives.