Thursday July 31, 2014





Melanoma awareness raised by tanning ban


Tanning industry is big business, but your skin pays a price, writes Bonnie Bischoff.

I am not going to attempt a medical debate with Bill Sanesh on the effects of UV exposure on melanoma rates tripling in recent years.

I am not a dermatologist, oncologist or cancer specialist of any kind. Given that Mr. Sanesh runs a tanning salon I am going to assume he is not, either. Having said that I am going express my support for B.C. following the lead of many other governments in banning the use of tanning beds for children.

As a melanoma patient I have watched with great interest the local debate on this issue. B.C. is certainly not paving the way here. What is happening this year for us will be the norm most places soon.

So instead of debating point for point his weak argument that he is performing what amounts to a medical public service in his tanning salon I'll just try to sway one or two of the few young girls he is willing to rent a tanning unit to so they can tan at home.

Advances in the area of melanoma research have been very slow coming. It has taken a long time to understand it. It has taken a long time to make any kind of advancements in treating it. Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers and people with stage IV melanoma have a less than five per cent survival rate.

So, if indeed the ban 'pushes people to higher risk UV environments' as Mr. Sanesh predicts, 'the worst part' is not that the legislation 'will tax our medical system even more' it is that more people will die from melanoma.

Melanoma is sometimes thought of as 'just skin cancer' but it is actually very different from other skin cancers. While it does typically start in skin cells it has a nasty habit of returning as large tumors in your brain, your lungs, near your heart and in your liver. That sounds great doesn't it?

Having a melanoma removed from your skin is no small task either. It requires the removal of all tissue around the melanoma down to the fatty cells. A chunk. In my case, a chunk the size of a golf ball. Three times. That's attractive.

I have had two other areas removed since that looked fishy. Those scars look awful too. So now I am not only a pasty white color all year long (I am nine times more likely to develop melanoma than the average person now that I have had it) I have scars I don't care for much either. 

Of course all of this pales compared to the fear of the cancer returning and having very few options to try to fight it.

I was diagnosed at 35 years old. I will tell you it has been an awful, scary experience. If you can do anything to lower your risk of developing this disease you should do it.

Moderate, long term exposure to UV rays causes melanoma. All UV exposure damages your skin sells. There is no such thing as a base tan or a safe tan.  The idea that you can only get skin cancer from bad sunburns is some kind of marketing yabba-yabba from the ‘80's.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an affiliate of the World Health Organization, includes UV tanning devices in its Group 1, a list of the most dangerous cancer-causing substances. Group 1 also includes agents such as plutonium, cigarettes, and solar UV radiation. Please spend some time looking into the recent research. www.skincancer.org has a great fact sheet.

The tanning industry made $5 billion in the U.S. last year. Asking salon owners if tanning is safe is like asking cigarette retailers if smoking can harm you.

BONNIE BISCHOFF

Kamloops





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