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Old 07-23-2005, 10:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
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UV or not UV: That's the question for Maine teens who want tans






By JOSIE HUANG, Staff Writer



The six or so weeks that constitute summer in Maine give sun worshipper Danielle Bennett a small window to get her tawny color outdoors. The rest of the year, she slips on goggles and slathers on lotion for a bath of ultraviolet rays in a tanning booth.



For the competitive cheerleader from Windham, looking good is worth the $5 she plunks down for every tanning session, which happens as often as two to three times a week during the winter.



There are no unsightly bikini lines, she says, no orangey streaks left by self-tanning creams. Fifteen minutes on the tanning bed and, bam, you're on your way to glowing like Jessica Simpson.



"It makes you look good in everything you wear. For some people, it adds more tone definition," said Bennett, who discovered indoor tanning a couple of years ago as a 15-year-old.



But a rise in skin cancer rates has started a push to discourage young people like Bennett from indoor tanning, much the way minors are not allowed to buy cigarettes or attend R-rated movies in theaters.



Members of the American Medical Association recently voted to support federal legislation that would bar anyone under age 18 from using a tanning bed or similar equipment. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization recommended that no one under 18 use a tanning bed, noting that young people who get burned from UV rays have a higher risk of developing the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma.



Cancer prevention leaders in Maine strongly support any way of reducing exposure to UV light — manufactured or natural. Melanoma is the state's fastest-growing cancer diagnosis, with the number of new cases tripling since the mid-1990s. Besides causing skin cancer, excessive UV exposure can also prematurely age the skin and suppress the immune system.



Maine already requires parental consent for indoor tanning by minors, but the compliance rate is unclear. What is apparent is that indoor tanning is as popular as ever, with teens drawn by student discounts of as much as 15 percent.



"We are in the process of assessing whether we should continue along the strategy of promoting public education and the current law, or should we strengthen the law," said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of Maine's Bureau of Health. "This is not yet answered, but certainly I'm a big proponent of using strategies that effectively reduce the use of tanning beds and booths."



Tanning salon operators, though, question whether banning teens from their businesses will actually do more harm.



"If you forbid a teenager to go into a tanning bed or booth," said Arline Berube, owner of Go Figure Tone & Tan in Scarborough, "they will lay out in the sun and do more damage to their skin and get a sunburn."



Berube said responsible salon owners do not allow their clients to burn; rather, they schedule tanning sessions gradually, as a way to condition skin for tanning.



Moderate tanning and sunburn prevention are the buzz words of the $5 billion-a-year indoor tanning industry, and they have caught on.



Danielle Bennett and her friend Becky Law said many girls at their high school start tanning months in advance of the prom, while others want to prime their skin before spring break so they don't burn as easily.



Teenagers have 161 tanning salons to choose from in Maine, a mid-range number compared with 100 in Alaska and more than 1,000 in Florida, according to the Indoor Tanning Association.



About two dozen states have passed parental consent laws for indoor tanning. But even in other states, the trade group urges salon owners to get parents' permission.



That being the case, a government ban on teenage tanning would be intrusive and unnecessary, says association spokeswoman Melissa Haynes.



"I think the dermatologists are really trying to encourage the government to step in when government regulation isn't needed," she said.


If dermatologist Dr. Arielle Kauvar had her way, though, indoor tanning would be outlawed.


Given the unlikeliness of that scenario, Kauvar, a public awareness leader for the American Academy of Dermatologists, sees a ban for minors as "a foot in the door, at least something we can work with."


Dermatologists say they are perturbed by claims that indoor tanning is healthy. While exposure to UV light promotes the production of the nutrient vitamin D, a few minutes a week outdoors or a vitamin pill will do the trick more safely, said Dr. James Spencer, the Florida dermatologist who co-chairs the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention.


Spencer is also skeptical that indoor tanning alleviates seasonal depression. "What makes people happy is visible light," Spencer said. "When you're indoor tanning, you've got goggles on."


Dermatologists stress there are other ways to go bronze year-round. Self-tanning creams and sprays carry no health risks, and cosmetic companies are reformulating products for more realistic results, Kauvar said.


Some sun-loving teenagers don't think a ban on indoor tanning would be such a bad idea. Ashley Kowalski of Saco began using tanning beds when she was 17, going as often as four times a week.


Now 19, Kowalski said she has become more wary of tanning since a batch of moles appeared on her body.


"If I had realized how bad I've damaged my skin, I probably wouldn't have done it," said Kowalski, who now uses a sunblock.


For Bennett, the Windham teen who tans year-round, it makes sense to keep younger kids from indoor tanning, but not high-schoolers.


"There are big things like prom that I just think people want to look good for," Bennett said. "They wouldn't want to look like a ghost."


Staff Writer Josie Huang can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

jhuang@pressherald.com

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Old 07-23-2005, 10:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Today's Question

Each day, we ask MaineToday.com readers for their reactions to events in the news:

ID, please?

The American Medical Association is calling for a federal age limit on tanning booths to keep teens from burning themselves. Supporters note that melanoma is now the fastest-growing cancer diagnosis in Maine. Opponents, especially teens who regularly use the booths, say its better than hanging out on the beach all day. Should there be a minimum age limit on tanning booths?


Yes : 73.91%

No : 26.09%



Total Votes: 69




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