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Student voices: Kassie offers a prom-season warning

While shopping, it becomes very apparent that prom season is under way. Shops are flourishing off of dress sales, hair salons are getting ready to make appointments and tanning salons are getting their specials ready for their big crowd. Last year I went to the tanning salon probably 10 times during the month before prom. That’s what everyone does, right? It’s just the same as going outside and getting a tan right?

It’s not. I’m puzzled to this day on why tanning has become such a popular thing for my generation.

On March 5, I got the privilege to visit the Minnesota State Capitol with two other high school students from the High Schools Against Cancer club. I was invited through the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. It is a yearly event the American Cancer Society puts on called “A Day at the Capitol.” Last year they helped pass the $1.60 cigarette tax. This year’s theme was “Tan-free Teens.” The goal was to ban anyone under the age of 18 from using UV tanning beds. In the morning we learned about tanning beds and the threat they pose for teens. During lunch, a girl and her mother spoke about the daughter’s battle with melanoma, the most intense form of skin cancer. It was a shock to me. I haven’t gone tanning nearly as much as some girls I go to school with. But now I wonder why I ever used one in the first place.

In the afternoon, we sat in on a hearing for our bill to move on. We also got into groups to meet with our representatives and congressmen. I got the privilege to talk with my own Minnesota Congressman, Jim Metzen. While we were talking to him, he mentioned how when he was a teenager everybody smoked cigarettes, including himself. It’s just something everyone did. No one knew the risks. He developed a small patch of cancer on his lungs a few years back. He then went to the Mayo Clinic to get it removed.

An estimated 2.3 million girls across the country use tanning beds. Melanoma shows up in oddly shaped moles. Most think, “Oh, it can just get cut off, problem solved.” Well, if you count digging an inch piece out below the mole and a few inches long too, then yes. That is, if it hasn’t spread.

One third of teens in Minnesota say they have used a tanning bed, which means 1/3 of teens are putting themselves at a 59 percent higher risk for developing melanoma. I am one of the one in three and if I would’ve known then what I know now, I wouldn’t be.

Wanting to look a certain way shouldn’t increase the risk of developing cancer. If you are preparing for prom, I hope you think twice. If you are a parent of someone preparing for prom, I hope you also think twice. If you wouldn’t want your child to smoke a cigarette (class one carcinogen), why let them use a tanning bed (class one carcinogen)? I’m sure many teenage girls will be very angry if the bill passes. But in the end, we don’t judge people on the color of their skin due to race, so why do we judge the color of their skin due to sun exposure. It makes no sense to me.

Don’t let the color of your skin determine your attractiveness and certainly don’t let a tanning bed ruin your health.