Mackenzie Pittman
Guest Columnist

It’s that time of the year- we have all returned from spring break and are working to maintain our bronze, beach goddess tans at our local tanning salons. It truly pains me to write this because, like many of you ladies (and some of you gentlemen), I too have a membership that I frequently use. However, educating ourselves on our own health choices is necessary and could, in the long run, save our lives.

Last week, I came across an article in Cosmopolitan titled A Death By Suntan At Age 26. The contents were shocking and have certainly opened my eyes.

Glenna Kohl was diagnosed with melanoma at age 22, during her senior year of college. She was very much health conscious: a vegetarian, an avid exerciser and quite the nature lover. She tanned roughly one or two times a week, on top of her sun exposure at her job as a lifeguard. During a workout one evening, she felt a large lump on her abdomen and immediately went home to ask the opinion of her roommate. They both assumed it was a pulled muscle, so there was little concern for the time being.

Unfortunately, after a month, the lump was still present. She went through a list of doctors before finally getting it biopsied, and the results were her worst fears.

The abdominal lump was a tumor of the melanoma. In fact, it was a cancer-stricken lymph node, indicating that she was already in stage III. Glenna took on this battle with positivity, receiving a roller coaster ride of treatments and test results. The melanoma kept returning and Glenna passed away at 26.

Twenty minutes in a tanning bed is the equivalent of three hours on the beach without sun protection. Yes, your body needs sun exposure to produce Vitamin D, but the maximum amount of exposure you need is three times a week for around fifteen minutes, at most. One tanning bed visit could be the equivalent of up to five weeks worth of healthy sun exposure, which is not healthy at all.

I am sure you have heard this lecture from your parents or grandparents before: “Tanning causes skin cancer.” But it’s true. We think that because we are young, we are less susceptible to these health concerns. In this case, however, it is the exact opposite. The younger you start tanning, the greater the risk becomes of developing skin cancer. If you start tanning before the age of 22, the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent. That is why “Glenna’s Law,” a bill currently before the Massachusetts State Senate, seeks to ban indoor tanning for those under 16 years old. Be aware, fellow tanners, and don’t spend so much time lying in the tanning bed that it leads to you laying under an MRI.