Tuesday, June 18 2013, 09:00 AM MDT
Melanoma On The Rise In Teens
(CBS) More states are making tanning beds off limits to kids under 17-years-old without permission from a parent.
Tanning beds produce ultraviolet rays that can cause melanoma. This type of cancer kills thousands of people a year.
When 22-year-old Tara Petzold was just 15-year-old, she noticed something new on her skin. “It was really just a light pink mole that was on the back of my leg,” Tara said. “I remember when my mom initially told me that the diagnosis had come back as melanoma and I started crying.”
Melanoma before 20 is rare, occurring in only about 500 patients a year, but it’s steadily on the rise—especially in 15 to 19-year-old girls.
A new study in the Journal Pediatrics reported that from 1973 to 2009, new childhood and adolescent cases rose two percent each year.
Researchers theorize the increase is due, in part, to the use of tanning salons.
In addition to playing outdoor soccer in Florida, Tara started going to a tanning salon when she was just 14-years-old.
“I felt such a pressure to look tan because that’s what I felt was pretty,” Tara said.
Tara’s doctor, Vernon Sondak, of the Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, says he sees about one new pediatric melanoma patient a month. “It’s a particularly challenging recognition problem. Melanomas in children don’t always look exactly like in a grownup. They’re a little less likely to be dark black, and of course, moles are changing in kids all the time as they grow.”
Tara says she’s now cancer free. Since being treated for her melanoma, she estimates she’s had nearly 30 suspicious moles or spots removed—and she’s never returned to a tanning salon.
Utah made it a law last year that anyone under 18-years-old can’t use a tanning bed without permission from their parents.