Don't get 'burned,' know the risks associated with tanning


by Rachel Platt

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 18 at 8:24 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and it’s on the rise in Kentucky. 

Brady Button said he never expected to be in his doctor's office with a mole that ended up being cancer.  Button is not a smoker or a drinker and had no family history, but in high school his buddy owned a tanning bed and he used it.

Now at age 37, Button may be paying the price and Dr. Jason Chesney said he thinks there is a direct correlation to tanning in his case.

Button is part of a disturbing trend in Kentucky. Chesney said the more times you expose yourself to UV radiation, the better your chance of getting melanoma.

Chesney is deputy director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center where they track and study cancer. Kentucky’s melanoma mortality rate is going up, he calls it an epidemic of melanoma, and many cases have ties to tanning.

Outdoor tanning, then the prominence of tanning beds, all involve ultraviolet radiation, which is now classified as a carcinogen in the same category as cigarette smoke.

Health officials said one session in a tanning booth increases your risk of melanoma by 75 percent, any sunburn even more. Melanoma is the number two killer of young people ages 15 to 29  and the number one killer of women ages 25 to 29.

The majority of people exposed in their 20’s develop it in their 40’s and it comes at a time 20 years after tanning beds exploded onto the scene.

There are proposals to reclassify sunlamp products from low risk to moderate risk and warn anyone under 18 not to use them.

I called dozens of salons trying to get an owner to talk, finally one did. Lisa brooking owns 10 tanning salons, True Colors, most of them in Indiana. She said she is a small business owner trying to get a fair shake.

Brooking said she promotes responsible tanning for people of all ages and she already goes above and beyond what the law requires, which vary state to state.

She said she controls tan times, doesn’t allow burns and uses fingerprint scanners to keep track of her customers. No one under 14 can tan in her shop.

At a different salon, this one in Louisville, Becca Ratliff said she has been tanning since her teens -- her mom regulating how often.

Ratliff said tanning makes her feel better and look better. She uses a tanning bed to get her base but doesn't overdo it and is educated on the risks and warnings.

She said she shouldn’t be told she can’t tan.

Chesney said he hopes warning labels directed at young people will dissuade them and he would like to see a ban for anyone under 18.

It's an industry under scrutiny, and an industry trying to find balance between health, business, and personal freedom without anyone getting burned.

Click here for information from the FDA on indoor tanning and UV exposure.