Smart Woman: Melanoma Rates in Teenage Girls on the Rise

New laws are popping up making tanning beds off-limits to minors without parental consent. Tanning beds produce ultraviolet rays that can cause melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer killing thousands of people each year.

Melanoma before the age of 20 is rare, occurring in only about 500 patients a year, but it's steadily rising, especially in 15 - 19 year old girls. A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that from 1973 to 2009, new childhood and adolescent cases rose two percent each year. Researchers theorize the increase is due, in part, to the use of tanning salons.

"We tell our patients that sun is not their friend! That they're not to get a tan, that there is no such thing as a healthy tan," says Dr. Vernon Sondak, of the Moffit Cancer Center. Dr. Sondak goes on to tell us that melanomas in children don't always look exactly like they would in an adult. They're a little less likely to be dark black and, of course, moles are changing in kids all the time as they grow.

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