'I just wanted to be popular': 20-year-old woman warns of dangers of tanning beds after her addiction led to skin cancer
20:01 GMT, 6 July 2012
A woman whose tanning habit caused her to develop skin cancer at the age of just 20 has issued a warning to other young people against the use of sunbeds.
Allison Bailey, from Boston, Massachusetts, began tanning as a teenager, in the hope that it would make her more popular, but admits that the habit became something close to an addiction.
She was diagnosed with melanoma after noticing some unusual moles on her legs and was left in a wheelchair and on crutches for a month.
Her story: Allison Bailey, a former tanning bed addict was diagnosed with skin cancer at just 20 and was left on crutches for a month
Describing the environment in which the occasional ultraviolet session quickly became a dangerous habit, she told The Boston Herald: 'There was a social pressure of how it defines beauty.
'I felt I couldn’t wear certain outfits because I was too pale.'
In anticipation of a big event, Ms Bailey would visit the tanning salon up to four to five days a week.
Though the James Madison University graduate is keen to share her story to spread awareness, it is unfortunately not such a surprising tale.
Dermatologist Jennifer Lin, of the Pigmented Lesion Clinic at Brigham & Women's Hospital revealed to the paper that in the last 40 years, the number of young adults 18-39 diagnosed with melanoma has increased by six times.
A big part of the problem is the intensity of tanning beds that shower their visitors with UVA rays 12 times stronger than the sun's.
A common misconception lingering from the past is that UVB rays are the only carcinogenic variety and that these UVA rays are safer.
But this has since been proven inaccurate and even before symptoms as serious as cancer, the rays can cause considerable premature ageing.
Baking: 69per cent of teenagers get sunburned every year while in the last 40 years the number of 18-39-year-olds with melanoma has increased six-fold
The challenge of encouraging
youngsters to heed the warnings about the risks associated with sun beds
is one that doctors, and now Ms Bailey, are struggling to overcome.
In a survey last month, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, found that among teens and young adults, these warnings fall on deaf ears.
Of those who confessed to having used a tanning bed in a poll taken by the prestigious facility, a surprising 59per cent said they agreed with the statement: 'Tanning bed use can make me ill, but everything causes cancer these days.'
Asked to respond to the statement:
'Tanning bed use is no more risky than lots of other things that people
do,' 52per cent agreed.
Study researcher Smita Banerjee, a behavioral scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering told My Health Daily News: 'The type of thinking that there is danger all around you, and hence unavoidable, is a common way of justifying risky behaviors'
And with 69per cent of adolescents reporting sunburn every year, this unwillingness to act responsibly in the sun seems almost impossible to change.
Addicted: Patricia Krentcil, 44, branded by the media as 'tanning mom' brought the discussion of indoor tanning into the spotlight
Dr Lin concurred: 'The behavior of
young people is hard to correct. Ultraviolet exposure especially when
you’re young increases the risk of melanoma.
tanning bed use has also been a factor with the increased risk. Part of
it is awareness, but many are succumbing to peer influence.'
Though a staggering 71per cent of tanning salon patrons are aged between 16-29, teens and young adults are not the only ones seduced by the idea that bronze is beautiful.
In May, tanning beds made headlines thanks to New Jersey mother, Patricia Krentcil who was arrested after teachers at her daughter's school noticed the five-year-old appeared sunburned.
Ridiculed in the media for her outlandish skin tone, Ms Krentcil, it was claimed had taken her daughter to a salon and thus had broken the state law forbidding anyone under the age of 14 from entering a tanning establishment.
THE DANGERS OF TANNING SALONS
Four visits to a tanning salon per year can increase the risk of melanoma by 11per centTanning bed visitors are 74per cent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoorsThe International Agency for Research on Cancer, puts ultraviolet tanning devices, like sunbeds in the same category as cigarettes in a list of the most dangerous cancer-causing substancesNearly 30 million people tan indoors in the U.S. every year and 2.3 million of them are teens71per cent of tanning salon patrons are girls and women aged 16-29A person's risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any ageThe number of melanoma cases continues to rise faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers