Two high schools recently held No-Tan Proms, a move that mothers and health care workers hope will become the norm nationwide.
At Maynard High School in Massachusetts, 209 of 283 seniors signed a pledge not to tan before the prom. Allison Bosse, Fox News reports, started the petition because tanning is rampant at her high school. The students were starting to tan as early as February to look good in their prom dresses, putting themselves at a greatly increased risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma.
Melanoma is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in teenagers, according to The American Cancer Society, second to only leukemia. Even more alarming is the recent trend in melanoma cases among children. The numbers are skyrocketing, increading by more than 3 percent per year, and the biggest increase is among young women. Dr. David Fisher, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and chief of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN that this trend is traceable to tanning beds. Ultraviolet radiation levels inside tanning beds are 10 to 15 times greater than the sun at its strongest. Exposure to UVA rays has been linked to melanoma, especially in children. People who use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never gone tanning.
Maynard High School is the latest school to hold a tan-free prom. Earlier this month, every student at First Baptist Academy in Dallas signed a pledge to remain tan-free. The administrators at the school heartily accepted the pledge, and a dermatology nurse practitioner — and mother of a First Baptist Academy student — supports this decision. Likening tanning bed use to smoking and driving without a seatbelt, the mother told Channel Four she’d like to push the pledge nationwide.
Unfortunately, the pledge comes too late for Samantha Hessel, who started tanning as a freshman in high school, to look good for her school’s prom. By age 17, she was tanning at least three times a week. By age 19, Hessel had melanoma. After treatment and surgery, her cancer is in remission. But Hessel makes it a priority to inform teenagers of the dangers of tanning. Even generally day-glow celebrities like “Jersey Shore”‘s Snooki, pregnant with her first child, have recently been seen with a paler, more natural look. This week, Snooki tweeted “Whoa look at this non tan. #pregnantproblems.” Most fans were supportive of the more natural look. One Twitter user replied, “You actually look more attractive like that. Not like a Cheeto.”
Bosse and her fellow classmates at Maynard High School came to the prom pale, and proud of it. “More people showed up with their natural skin color than in previous years, and everyone looked beautiful,” she said.