What do Kelli Pedroia (wife of Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia), Lesley Green (a junior at Northeastern University), and Ariana Lefebvre (a senior at Lincoln High School in Rhode Island) all have in common? They are all passionate advocates for the Melanoma Foundation of New England’s program to keep students out of tanning beds.
“The statistics are pretty scary,” says Pedroia, the Foundation’s official spokesperson for Your Skin Is In, a no-tanning pledge contest at colleges and high schools throughout New England. “If you use a tanning booth once a month before the age of 35, your chance of getting melanoma increases by 75%. Not only that, melanoma is the second most common cancer in teens and young adults ages 15-29. It’s no coincidence that the sharp increase in melanoma in recent years is tied to tanning. Having this information while I was in high school might have prevented my lifetime battle with melanoma.”
Northeastern junior Kelsey Green used to be big into tanning. In fact she was at a tanning salon the day the Foundation video crew showed up to shoot footage for a tanning video. Kelsey had no problem being featured. And then she saw the video. It literally changed her life, and now she’s helping promote Your Skin Is In. Green had this to say about her experience: “I was tanning nearly every day, unaware of the consequences. When I began working with the Foundation, I was shocked to learn about the incredible danger that tanning beds expose you to. From that point on, I vowed never to set foot in another tanning bed and to share my knowledge and experience with others.” This year Green and thousands of other college and high school students are participating in Your Skin Is In — with the goal of increasing awareness about the dangers of tanning.
Ariana Lefebvre is a senior at Lincoln High School in Rhode Island and she has this to say: “Last year the Your Skin Is In program and contest allowed me to educate my school and community in a direct way. I received an overwhelming response and with the help of the Foundation, a guest speaker and derma scan machine were sent to further my advocacy. From this experience I grew passionate about this cause and brought my efforts to the Rhode Island Legislature on a tanning bill. I testified for Bill H 7274 which would prohibit the use of tanning facilities by anyone under age 18 and regulate equipment and facility. I look forward to continuing the campaign again in 2011 and for the rest of my life.”
According to Hensin Tsao, MD, Ph.D., and Director of the Pigmented Lesion Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, there is a lot of misinformation about tanning and melanoma. “First of all, there is no such thing as a ‘safe tan.’ Melanoma, which is a deadly skin cancer, is increasing among young women, and indoor tanning is certainly one of the important causes. There is also no evidence that ‘base tanning’ will reduce the risk of skin cancer. So let’s get with it, ban the tan, and slap on some sunscreen.” Dr. Tsao is a member of the Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board.
The Foundation’s executive director, Deb Girard says, “This year the no-tanning program, now in its fourth year, has really taken off. Students are making a difference throughout New England, and we are urging more schools to join the excitement. We have a contest with great prizes to help spread the word including airline tickets, cash awards, gift certificates, a pizza party for 50, tickets to Six Flags New England and more. During the long winter months, young people are using tanning beds in record numbers. Don’t be fooled, the ultra violet rays from tanning are even stronger than the sun, and we now have data that says they cause skin cancer and melanoma.”
Over the next few months, the Foundation will be sending melanoma survivors to speak at schools throughout New England to draw attention to Your Skin Is In. The survivors will tell their stories, urge students to forget about tanning, and get them to join the No Tanning Pledge program and enter the contest.
Schools from each New England state have already signed up for this year’s program, and pledges are coming in as the April 1 deadline for the high school program nears. “Last year we had over 5,500 high school students sign our No-Tanning Pledge and this year we hope to increase that number,” says Girard.
SOURCE Melanoma Foundation of New England