To the Editor:
To look my best for my high school prom in 1987, I went to a tanning salon. Everyone in my suburb did! We thought that tans looked healthy. Thirty years later, tanning salons persist, as does the perception among many Caucasian teens that they look better with a tan.
Now I’m a dermatopathologist, and I have diagnosed thousands of skin cancers – the vast majority a result of exposure to UV light. I see a range of sun-related tumors. Some are common and treatable, such as basal cell carcinomas and others are deadly, such as melanoma. My colleagues in dermatology see patients who are obsessed with reversing the effects of sun-damage. The consensus in the medical field is clear – sun exposure damages skin, from cosmetic changes (premature aging) to altered DNA (cancer).
Scientists and medical professionals are also in agreement about the special danger of tanning salons as distinct from sun exposure alone. Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year. More young women develop melanoma than young men, thought to be related to the ubiquity of tanning bed use in this population. It’s clear that use of tanning beds lead to more medical problems and health care needs. Based on this evidence, the fact that the ACA imposed a 10-percent tax on tanning as a way to help fund coverage for some 20 million Americans made sense to me.
However, one of the lesser-known components of the congressional Republican’s recently passed AHCA bill repeals this tanning bed tax.
I was disappointed to learn that Republicans like my congressman Erik Paulsen appear more interested in protecting the tanning bed industry than patients who will inevitably suffer from these exposures. A rational approach to tumor prevention is in the best interests of all Americans. Is the GOP interested in rejecting science wholesale or just rejecting science in favor of big business? It seems we will find out during the Trump administration.
Dr. Jena Martin