Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Health Week: Tanning Risks!

It is unfortunate, but not at all surprising that at this point most respondents in the poll below said they use a tanning bed/booth while preparing for a pageant. I too tan in a booth for a month or two before, as well as using self-tanning lotions and sprays. I’ve always known it’s not good for me, but I tell myself, “I only do it for a few months a year, that’s not that bad!”

I’m sure you’ve all heard that line before- inside your own heads! Recently a former contestant who had probably also uttered those words shared a frightening result of her tanning days on the Miss Ohio message board, she also emailed me directly to help spread the message.


Katie (McMurray) Cable was the first woman to ever place a crown on my head! She is a statuesque, fair-skinned opera singer who graced the Miss Ohio stage as Miss Lake Festival and again, making the Top 10 as Miss Clayland.

Katie writes,

“I've never been a major sun worshipper, but did do my share of tanning for Miss Ohio and local pageants.

I recently had a mole removed from my back that was found to be malignant Melanoma. I was lucky, in that they caught it early and (after a minor procedure) I will just have to be very mindful of any changes in my skin in the coming years. However, it could have been much worse and I know that a tan is not worth this risk!

I know this is easier-said-than-done, but get your pageant tan from a bottle! Fake-bake lotions have come a LONG way and can look very natural. That being said, tanning beds are not the only risk – sun exposure day-to-day is to blame as well. Wear your SPF, sunglasses, etc. If nothing else, think of all of those wrinkles you’ll be saving yourself!

I really believe in the Miss Ohio/America programs and the people within it. Therefore, I care about your general health and wouldn’t want anyone to pay the price later for looking good now!”

Well said!


The scholarships and valuable experiences earned through pageants are meant to help young women excel in the future, but the harsh reality is that many women think that to be successful onstage they have to tan, thus risking their future health!

I fully understand the desire to be tan and agree it looks better onstage, but the term “healthy glow” is something of an oxymoron. In fact, a tan is caused by your skins trying to protect itself and a sunburn actually indicates that the rays have killed your skin cells! CLICK HERE for a fantastic website and video that clearly explains how it works.

Last year's 2nd Runner-up to Miss Ohio and the reigning Miss Clayland, Karissa Martin’s, pageant platform deals with this issue, so I called on her for the following information:

* An esimated 10,850 deaths occured due skin cancer in 2007. 8,110 were due to melanomas while 2,740 were due to nonmelanoma skin cancer. Many people don't hear about basal and squamous cell carcinomas, but if left untreated, they can become as deadly as melanomas. Men are more likely to develop skin cancer because of higher sun exposure.

* Tanning beds and sun lamps should be avoided at all cost!!! There are many other options available such as spray tan, airbrushing, self-tanners, lotions, and creams.

* Almost all skin cancer can be prevented by limiting exposure to the sun and tanning lamps. Of the entire spectrum of cancer types, skin cancer is the most easily prevented.

* Tanning beds are just as bad, if not worse than the sun. The only reason they claim to be "safer" is the rays that cause burning have been removed. UV rays that cause cancer are still in tanning beds.

* Risk of melanomas increase with age. However, it is one of the most common forms of cancer in adolescents and young adults. Risk is higher if you or close family members have a history of the disease.

* Any atypical or sudden change in a once normal looking mole needs to be checked as this could be signs of skin cancer. The most common warning signals of melanoma can be seen using the ABCD rule.

- A is for asymmetry: one half of the mole does not match the other half.
- B is for border irregularity: the edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for color: the color is not uniform or has changed.
- D is for diameter: greater than 6 millimeter (about the size of the flat end of a pencil eraser) or a sudden change in size.

* Limit sun exposure during the midday hours (10am-4pm) as the sun's rays are strongest during this time.

* Several sunburns early in life highly increase the risk of skin cancer.

* By the time a person reaches the age of 18, they have received well over 50% of their lifetime sun exposure.

* The American Cancer Society has a neat way to remember the basics. It's called "Slip! Slop! Slap!" which means -- slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

* Wear sunscreen with a 25 spf or higher. Higher is better especially for fair complexions. (I usually wear at least a 45 spf)

We’ve all heard that tanning can dry up acne and improve our mood in addition to making us look better onstage, but these things can be accomplished in other, safer ways. It's clear that those benefits do NOT outweigh the risks.
If you’re still not convinced…


Miss Maryland 2007 Brittany Lietz is a cancer survivor; like Karissa she advocates skin cancer awareness.

Brittany Lietz just wanted to look tan for her senior prom. “In my mind I thought that tanning made me look great and for this reason tanning for me became very addictive,” says Lietz

Within a year, a small mole on her back, located by her bra strap, had started growing.

She underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center to remove the mole and six lymph nodes in her right arm, leaving a 14-inch scar across her back. Since then, she has had about 20 additional surgeries to remove other precancerous or atypical lesions all over her body, and now sports small scars on the front of her chest, stomach, hips, one knee and her inner thigh near the groin.

“I attribute almost all of it to the tanning beds,” Lietz says, noting that the lesions found on her inner thigh were located “in an area that the sun doesn’t reach unless you’re in a tanning bed with no clothes on.”

“Teenagers think (tanning salons) are healthy because if they tan at a tanning bed, they won’t get burned when they go outside, but 30 minutes in a tanning bed is equivalent to 12 and a half hours of sun exposure,” Lietz says.

The experience changed Lietz’s outlook on life. "To me, being tan is not worth losing my life over," she said. "I'm going to be pale and that's who I am."

The above is a collection of quotations from three different articles:

The Cancer Blog: Miss Maryland: Brittany Lietz skin cancer survivor wins

Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Patient Profile: Brittany Lietz

The Beauty Queen and the Mole

Very special thanks to Katie McMurray Cable for bringing this important issue to light and sharing her personal story and also to Karissa Martin for providing me with valuable statistics.

Tomorrow I'll touch on UV-free tanning alternatives!


  1. Abby, I am so glad to see that you are having "health week" on your blog! I am a current Miss Ohio contestant and even though most people do not know this (which is why I am choosing to write anonymously), or wouldn't even suspect it of me, I have had issues with skin/tanning and also have battled an eating disorder. It's nice to see someone focusing on this within the pageant realm! I think it's good to bring a lot of people, young women especially, down to Earth and really pound these issues that we often ignore, thinking "it can't happen to me".

  2. I am also a former beauty queen who's had a bout with Skin Cancer- mine was a squamous cell on my face- not melanoma (thank goodness!). I'm so glad that people are talking about it and hopefully realizing that self tanners are the way to go!


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