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Sun, Tanning Lamps Suspected in Rise in Melanoma

July 12, 2008

By Delthia Ricks and Kimberley A. Martin, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Jul. 12–Jessica Shutovich, 23, of St. James, went under the lamps of a tanning salon twice a week for six years until she noticed skin damage and freckles under her eyes.

Now, unnerved by her family history of skin cancers, she spray tans once every few months — though she’d still prefer the bronzed look she got from the lamps. “My face is pale now. It’s like it needs the tanning or something,” she said as she waited for a session at Beach Bum Tanning in Stony Brook.

It’s women such as Shutovich who are the subject of concern in new research on the deadliest form of skin cancer, which shows escalating rates among women compared to male counterparts. The study, published Thursday, looked at the incidence of melanoma over a 30-year period.

Led by Mark Purdue of the National Cancer Institute, it examined melanoma incidence between 1973 and 2004, and found the rate jumped by 50 percent since 1980 for women between the ages of 15 and 39. For men of the same age, the rate remained stable.

Purdue blames a combination of excessive sun exposure and the possible overuse of tanning salons, which tend to cater more to women than to men. Tanning beds emit ultraviolet rays that can damage the skin the same way that the sun can.

In response to the study, Sarah Longwell, spokeswoman for the Indoor Tanning Association, said the main cause of melanoma is genetic, adding the research “just isn’t borne out by science.”

Melanoma often first appears as a harmless mole, though it has a notorious potential to spread.

Dr. Colette Pameijer, a cancer surgeon at Stony Brook University Medical Center, said excessive, unprotected sun exposure as well as artificial tanning play roles in the cancer.

“Just over the last 50 years if you look at the percent change in a number of different cancers, you’ll find a 600 percent change [in the melanoma rate] between 1950 and now. So melanoma is off the charts,” Pameijer said Friday.

No other form of cancer has increased so dramatically, said Pameijer, who leads Stony Brook’s melanoma cancer team. “I personally think tanning is absolutely related to it. … Beauty concepts have changed over time. In the past if you were tanned, you were a laborer. Now if you’re tanned, you’re relaxed and have a nice lifestyle.”

Pameijer said this is more of an issue for young women than men. “It’s like an addiction for women. They either have to be in the tanning booth or they have to be in the sun.”

ON TANNING SALONS

LIers sound off on why they tan, despite risks.

By Arielle Brechisci and Kimberley A. Martin

“I’m addicted. It’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than being outside.” Of skin cancer: “I’m sure I’ll get it someday.” — Michele Carrasquillo, 25, of Levittown, who says she has tanned every day

the past year

“I worry about skin cancer. I have fair skin and burn easily. I’ve had first-degree burns before from the beach.” — Kathleen Ward, 25, of Wantagh, who got a spray tan Friday afternoon and goes out in the sun once or twice a month

“Yeah, getting skin cancer and wrinkles worries me.”

– Nicole Foy, 20, of Levittown, says the cancer risk “hasn’t really” stopped her from tanning every two weeks for the past four years. She spends about $50 a month on tanning.

“Though I know it’s one of the deadliest cancers, with skin cancer, I feel as though I can get it fixed because it’s on top of the skin. It’s easier to detect.”

– Jessica Shutovich, 23, of St. James, who visited tanning beds but stopped when she noticed skin damage

“I feel better with just a little bit of color. And I’m not a sun person. I work a lot and don’t have time to lay out. Ten minutes in here works for me. It has to be safer than baking in the sun all day.”

– Nicole Calabria, 29, of Lake Ronkonkoma, who started tanning last year; she tans twice a month

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Copyright (c) 2008, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

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