Medical students speak out against tanning

June 13, 2014 11:00 AM

Alicia Duplessis Jasmin

Tanning may seem harmless to teenagers, but scientific studies show an increase in the occurrence of melanoma in adolescents and young adults. Tulane University dermatology resident Dr. Amy Metzger Ananth is addressing this issue through the implementation of the Sun Protection Outreach Teaching by Students (SPOTS) program, which educates teens on the warning signs of skin cancer.

Tanning dangers

“Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old,” says Dr. Amy Metzger Ananth. “It is increasing faster in females who are 15 to 29 than in males in the same group.” (Photo from Masterfile)

Ananth, who started the program at Tulane as a first-year resident in 2012, is now chief resident in dermatology and continues to lead the effort of volunteer medical students during their outreach to local middle and high schools.

Since the program began, Ananth says Tulane medical students have discussed the dangers of tanning at Metairie Park Country Day School, the Academy of the Sacred Heart and Ursuline Academy. They have reached approximately 200 students.

“The program is geared toward both young men and women, but because young women have especially strong social pressures to tan, we have made an effort to teach at local girls’ schools,” says Ananth.

SPOTS was originally created by a group of medical students and dermatology faculty at St. Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis, where Ananth attended medical school. The plan is for the New Orleans chapter to be comprised of both Tulane and LSU medical students.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill last month to ban minors from using tanning beds. Previously, minors could access tanning facilities as young as 14 with written permission from a parent.

“Tanning beds give off 2 to12 times as much ultraviolet radiation as the noonday summer sun,” says Ananth. “There is a 75 percent increased risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, if tanning beds are used before the age of 35.”

Email Ananth for more information about SPOTS.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000