I’ll be the first to admit I’ve seen my fair share of tanning beds—heck, I used to work at a tanning salon, but that was in 2003, before the scare tactics had really ramped up and the medical data wasn’t as solid. Trust me, I’m not making excuses—I didn’t have the knowledge that’s available to us today. The fact that people still partake in this method to obtain a faux glow blows my mind, but nonetheless, so do many other things.
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Then I see stories like this one, as originally reported on by the BBC, and I’m reminded of our duty as beauty editors to continue speaking out against the serious threat these UV beds pose. Anthea Smith, a 44-year-old mother of two living in the U.K., was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma after noticing a flesh-colored growth in her ear. Doctors were quick to dismiss it as a wart in the beginning, but eventually it spread, turning black and brown in the process, and bleeding when she’d touch it. The treatment plan included two operations and rounds of radiation.
“I was addicted to having a tan, to being tanned,” she told the BBC. “Predominantly it was sunbeds because it was quicker, and the results were faster.” Now she’s warning everyone not to use them. “I lost my left ear to my tanning addiction. [My] whole left ear has been amputated, and then [in a] second operation I had my whole inner ear, middle ear, all my salivary glands on my left side, all my lymph nodes. Full temple bone taken from my skull. The guilt that I feel to my husband and children, really, that this is all, this was self-inflicted.”
Shockingly, the American Cancer Society estimates that 100,350 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year in the U.S., and the rate has risen rapidly over the past few decades. As all dermatologists stress: Don’t forget your annual skin checks! Something tiny that looks like a wart or a pimple could be ominous, and it’s better to let a doctor make the call.
“Statistics for skin cancer are surprising for many of my patients,” says New York dermatologist Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD. “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with 1 in 5 Americans developing some form of it by the age of 70, and women under the age of 49 are more likely to develop melanoma than any other cancer except breast and thyroid cancer.”
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