AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) - The FDA wants to strengthen the warnings on tanning beds, especially for young people, because of the danger of skin cancer.
Melanoma is becoming more and more common, particularly in young adults, people who are otherwise healthy, no aches and pains, not on medications, not seeing a physician very often. But these are also people who ought to be screened for skin cancer.
Jennifer Sullivan visits her dermatologist regularly. She was 28-years-old when she had four suspicious looking moles removed. One of them was a melanoma.
"I said, 'How does it look?' And she said, 'Well, you're going to be fine.' And of course I got a little nervous when she said that, and I said, 'Are you trying to tell me that I have melanoma or skin cancer?' And she said, 'Yes, but you're going to be just fine,'" Sullivan recalled.
Because it was caught early, it was excised, and subsequently Sullivan has gotten married and has had children. Had her family doctor not performed a screening nine years ago, Sullivan's life could have taken a much different turn.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell an ordinary benign mole from a potentially dangerous melanoma. Melanomas more likely are going to have an asymmetry, they're going to have irregular borders, they're going to have multiple colors and they tend to be larger than your normal mole.
If melanomas are caught early, 98 percent are cured. If they spread, they're usually fatal. Most people don't get screened. Two UB medical students organized a free screening clinic to be held this coming Saturday.
Molly Cowdrey said, "We know that 76 percent of Americans have never had their skin screened by a dermatologist ever and that skin cancer is on the rise, especially in the young population now using all the tanning beds."
Sullivan is fair skinned, with many freckles. She didn't protect herself enough when she was younger. She does now, and she's examined regularly.
"I've had 21 moles excised since I had my melanoma," she said.
If you'd like to take part in the free screening, head to the food court in the Boulevard Mall on Saturday, May 11 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If Sullivan's story isn't enough to convince you, maybe this will: one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
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