The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

MAY 2015

The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.

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While "improving appearance" remains the main reason people say they tan indoors, social factors also drive this choice. After conducting a focus group of college-aged female tanners, Jerrod Stapleton, PhD, a behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey, was surprised to see how large a role peer influence played in tanning. "A lot of women talk to their friends and engage in conversations about tanning to a level I found surprising. They compare their tans to friends' and go on tanning dates." Stapleton observed some women tanning three to four times a week, beyond what they needed to maintain a bronze. "If it were only about having a tan appearance they'd go once a week, so I think there's more to it." IDENTITY AND ADDICTION For some frequent tanners it can be especially hard to quit because it's so tied up not just in their idea of beauty but in their very identity. "These women have internalized tanning as an important way they need to look and part of who they are," said Stapleton. "To hear them talk about how they monitor their looks and compare how tan they are really speaks to the power of tanning." Influenced by images of bronzed celebrities and models, Lauren Beloff, of Hoboken, NJ, became hooked on tanning in college after she won a one-month tanning pass in a contest. With the tanning salon near her school, she and her girlfriends dropped in for quick sessions between classes or after working out. "A lot of my friends went. We didn't talk about the dangers of tanning back then," said Beloff, now 31. "College students can be insecure; everybody was trying to fit in. The more I tanned, the more compliments I got. I loved the way I looked," she said. At one point, Beloff was visiting the salon up to three days a week. For some frequent users, whether they know it or not, the "power of tanning" may amount to both a physical and psychological dependency. Researchers have found that a segment of habitual tanners are addicted to UV light much like those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Frequent ultraviolet light exposure releases endorphins in the pleasure centers of the brain, creating feelings of relaxation and wellbeing that reinforce the behavior. 5 A 2010 study of 229 college tanners found that 39% met the scientific criteria for addiction to indoor tanning. 6 The tanning pull affected Beloff so strongly that she continued to visit tanning salons even after she was diagnosed in 2007 with a stage I melanoma on her chest. "I went tanning the day after I had a biopsy showing melanoma. I had to be tan," she said. She feared being "a pasty white girl" and prided herself on not having to wear makeup with her bronzed skinIn the end, it wasn't the potentially deadly melanoma on her body that made her give up tanning, but a far less dangerous cancer on her face, because this time the cancer was visible to others. She quit the habit in 2012, when she had a BCC removed below her lower right eye. Doctors had to scrape down to her muscle to remove the tumor, and young, single Beloff feared she would have an unattractive scar on her face for the rest of her life. "I knew at that moment I would give up tanning." Fortunately, she was left without a major scar, and today Beloff accepts her naturally porcelain skin. She takes pride in telling Figure 8: Lauren Beloff Already having survived a stage 1A melanoma on her chest in 2007, Lauren Beloff was diagnosed in 2012 with a basal cell carcinoma under her lower right eye. Figure 9: Lauren Beloff After the Mohs surgery to remove the BCC. Figure 10: Lauren Beloff In a recent photo, Beloff shows off her natural, pale skin. 50 College

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