Saturday, January 8, 2011

SANITY VS. VANITY

Are you crazy about being tan? If you are, you're not alone. Women, especially under the age of 35 and even men are very captivated by the bronze glow that laying in a tanning bed brings!  Over the past 20 years tanning beds have become ever more popular, casting ultraviolet light on a person's body in as little as 10-minute increments and provide a bronze glow - the quintessential Western image of beauty.  However, there has been a debate going on between tanning professionals and concerned researchers, citizens and parents about the danger of tanning booths.  Many scientists are now saying that tanning booths may be even more harmful than direct exposure to sunlight, a point which is strongly contested by the tanning professionals!  They say that indoor UV light is a better option because it limits sun exposure and helps the body protect against too much sun by building up a melanin layer at the top of the skin.  The melanin fliters out the UVA and UVB rays. 

Regardless of the rhetoric, if I knew that I was at a higher risk of melanoma because I had a certain gene mutation,CDKN2A, of which 67 percent of all melanomas result from its presence, I think I'd avoid tanning beds AND sun exposure, even if it meant no bronzed glow for me!  That is what the advocates of genetic testing for children and adolescents are saying - that kids would make wiser choices if they knew for a fact what their genetics said about it!  The down side would be that screening at such a young age might compromise their freedom of choice and maybe bring on worries and fears about their increased risk of getting cancer.  It can also be an expensive procedure and is not always covered by insurance! 

For Maryann Gerber, the choice is a no-brainer.  She began using tanning beds at age 20.  For 4 years, she went almost weekly. She noticed that she had a mole on her cheek and fortunately the same vanity that led her to the booths, led her to a plastic surgeon to have the mole removed.  She got a call a day later,informing her that she had melanoma.  10 years later, many scars on her face and back and multiple mole removals have changed her philosophy about wanting to be tan. 
Maryann immediately after surgery
She now speaks around the state of Utah, urging youth to always wear sunblock and get regular check-ups to catch any indications of melanoma early enough to treat it.  When she has children of her own, she definitely plans to use all the precautions with them, as well as genetic testing so that they will be fully armed with knowledge for prevention.


Maryann in the healing stages


She has been through too much to see it again in someone she loves...


Maryann 10 years after surgery
This was taken from several articles in The Deseret News, and is not a sponsored post.









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