Western Carolina Medical Society: Teens and skin cancer protection

From Western Carolina Medical Society:


Teens and Skin Cancer Protection

by Dr. Currie Custer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a time to remind our patients and our friends to protect their skin and to be screened regularly.

This year, however, doctors across North Carolina are also using May to focus on legislation to keep teens out of tanning beds and protect them from the dangers of UV radiation.

According to research confirmed by the American Academy of Dermatology, teens and young adults who begin tanning before the age of 35 have a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma. Incredibly, just one indoor tanning session increases the user’s risk of melanoma by 20 percent.

There are more than 1,400 tanning beds registered to operate in North Carolina – more than twice the number of McDonald’s.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, more than a quarter of 17-year-olds have used an indoor tanning facility. Most tanning bed users are young women, ages 16-29, so it should not be a surprise that melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old. In the past month alone, my practice has diagnosed four young women, under the age of 28, with melanomas so unfortunately it isn’t rare.

To address the epidemic of skin cancer in young people, a coalition of North Carolinians is sponsoring legislation to prohibit teens under 18 years of age from tanning beds. This very simple legislation is supported by the American Cancer Society, the NC Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control, the NC Child Fatality Task Force, The NC Dermatology Association, the state Medical Society, the Western Carolina Medical Society,  as well as the NC Oncology Association, NC Pediatric Society and AIM at Melanoma.

Other states, including Texas, Vermont, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, California now prohibit minors from using tanning beds.

HB18, the Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act passed the N.C. House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan vote of 94-22 last year. The goal for this year is to get the bill passed by the Senate and signed into law by Governor McCrory.

You can help. Take a moment to contact your state senators and ask that they approve this legislation this year.
Western North Carolina Senators

  • Ralph Hise (District 47) – Ralph.Hise@ncleg.net
  • Tom Apodaca (District 48) – Tom.Apodaca@ncleg.net
  • Terry Van Duyn (District 49) — 828 777-1672
  • Jim Davis (District 50) – Jim.Davis@ncleg.net


Thanks for taking the time to read about this important issue!



Currie Custer, MD is a fellow in the American Academy of Dermatology and practices at Current Dermatology in Sylva and Clyde. She is a member of the Western Carolina Medical Society. Dr. Custer is passionate about dermatology and making sure treatment is tailored for each patient. She is married and has three young children on whom she is constantly putting on sunscreen.


About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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