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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Think before you tan

When I first learned that my sister had cancer I feared the worst. I had so many questions, but did I really want answers?

Despite our nine-year age difference, we had always been very close sisters and best friends. I was in college when she was diagnosed; she was just 30 years old. Since, she has had four recurrences – meaning she has had cancer five times.

My sister is now an 18-year cancer survivor.

She has a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Once it begins to develop in your skin, it is likely to always be present in your body, in one stage of development or another. If diligent, it’s a cancer that you can live with.

It is extremely important to detect these changes in your skin as early as possible, to prevent it from spreading to other organs, or progressing into melanoma – the deadliest type of skin cancer.

My sister does not think of herself as a hero. But when I consider that she must use constant vigilance in observing changes on every inch of skin day after day, I am overwhelmed by her dedication to controlling the cancer.

She has had five surgeries to remove cancerous cells from her skin, ranging through her face to her throat, neck, shoulders and breasts. She must protect her skin every single time she goes outdoors.

One lapse in diligence – even the smallest mistake – on her part could result in the cancer developing from one she can live with, to one that will kill her.

It is now late in winter – the time of year when we begin to experience cabin fever – that time of year we long to escape from the seemingly endless string of cold and dreary days and yearn to feel the warmth of the sun on our skin.

It’s that time of year when tanning salons begin to prey, particularly on teens and young adults.

Exposure to UV radiation might provide some positive health benefits, but in moderation, and while following safety guidelines. Overexposure to UV radiation is harmful, and in some cases, leads to death.

According to a recent article by Rachel Nall of, indoor tanning devices are a known carcinogen. According to the World Health Organization, regular tanning bed usage can lead to the development of malignant melanoma and disfigurement from when skin cancers must be removed.

Also, because a tanning bed's ultraviolet rays are closer to the skin, the result can be thinner skin – which can make it more difficult for skin to heal, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Please, if you tan, or permit your teen to tan, please reconsider. At the very least, educate yourself to the facts - not what the tanning industry would have you believe, but the truth.

Respectfully submitted,

Theresa Fabiano-Schuhmacher

Mount Pleasant resident, CMU ’13, ‘00