Erie County Health Commissioner joins chorus to ban the teen tan

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Dr. Gale Bursetein joins with American Cancer Society, Roswell Park and others to educate and protect teens

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BUFFALO, NY – May 2, 2012 – Pressure is mounting on the New York State Senate to get serious about teens who tan.

Marking Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein today joined representatives from the American Cancer Society and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) to warn teens and parents about the dangers and cancer-causing effects of indoor tanning. Speaking at Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore, NY, Dr. Burstein also expressed her support for legislation pending in the NYS Senate that would prohibit the use of indoor tanning by minors under the age of 18.

“We have long known the dangers of Tanning. But recent studies have shown how great those dangers are, especially to teens,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner. “The World Health Organization identifies UV-emitting tanning devices as a group one carcinogen, along with tobacco and asbestos. The International Agency for Research on Cancer cites that use of tanning beds before the age of 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. Locally, Roswell Park Memorial Institute has noted an increase in young patients presenting with melanoma. We know that the harmful effects of UV exposure are cumulative and indoor tanning devices pose a higher risk for teens by increasing overall lifetime UV exposure. For all those reasons, we need to support of Senate Bill 2917 to ban tanning by minors.”

The bill passed the Assembly and is awaiting action on the Senate floor, having cleared health committees in both houses with strong bi-partisan majorities. It has the support of leading medical organizations such as Roswell Park Cancer Institute, The Cancer Center Leadership Group of the New York State Cancer Consortium, the American Academy of Dermatology Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Health advocates are urging swift passage of the measure.

“What is the Senate waiting for?” asked Gretchen Leffler, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society. “This is a common sense law that gives parents the support they need. The research is clear: indoor tanning is toxic to teens. There is no good reason for the State Senate to hold this bill up.”
"Melanoma is the second most common cancer in those ages 15 to 29 — I know I'm seeing more melanoma patients under 30 in my practice," noted Ilene Rothman, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at RPCI and also Chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo. "With reliable studies showing a strong and direct correlation between indoor tanning and this often deadly cancer, it just makes sense to take those steps we can to prevent exposure to the harms of indoor tanning, especially in young people."

One person who knows the effects of tanning first hand is Scott Hangauer. After years of indoor tanning that started at age 16, Hangauer was diagnosed with melanoma.

"I started going tanning at the age of 16," said Scott Hangauer, a melanoma survivor in his 20s who started tanning at age 16. "Until you're at the age where you can make mature, rational decisions, you have to protect people. And you can't leave it up to parents, because kids will do it without their parents knowing."

Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore students, one of whom spoke at the press conference, met with Hangauer to talk about the role societal pressure can play in tanning and why they support new tanning restrictions.

"Now that its prom season, I hear a lot of kids talking about going to tanning salons, and I just wonder if they understand the risks," said Serena Mott, a Mount St. Mary junior whose aunt is a melanoma survivor. "I don't think a lot of them do, or don't take the risks seriously."

The New York State Senate has from now until the end of the Legislative session next month to take action on tanning reforms for teens. According to the American Cancer Society, this year about 76,250 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. In New York State, it is estimated that more than 4,700 people will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin.

For more information from the American Cancer Society about skin cancer and the dangers of indoor tanning, log onto cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.

Additional Reading:
The Facts about Tanning
Take the Pledge to Support the Teen Tan Ban in New York
Study Links Tanning Bed Use to Increased Risk of Melanoma
ACS Researchers: Tanning Bed Use Still a Problem

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About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

About Roswell Park Cancer Institute
The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

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