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A recent survey of tanning salon operators within the state of Missouri revealed that 65 percent of personnel would allow pre-teens to use their facilities. The findings, originally published in the Journal of Pediatrics (2012), indicated that Missouri was one of 17 states openly permitting youngsters to use tanning beds without a minimum age restriction. How young is too young to indoor tan?

When Patricia Krencil, a mom in New Jersey, was accused of taking her six-year-old daughter to a tanning salon people were aghast. I wonder why, we don’t feel the same shock and horror when teenage girls are indoor tanning for prom? Why do parents give consent for teenagers to indoor tan? Don’t they know that exposure to ultraviolet radiation in tanning beds increases their child’s risk of developing the two deadly forms of skin cancer. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that 6,200 cases of melanoma are caused each year by indoor tanning.

There are now twelve states with under age eighteen tanning bans in America. I believe that legislation is an important part to protecting children from skin cancer. However, I believe that skin cancer can best be prevented with education, and the earlier the better. Efforts are underway by organizations like ours to reach into the classroom with on-going lessons about prevention and early detection. We developed Glenna’s Gift, a video that shares one young women’s struggle with a tanning addiction and melanoma diagnosis, to educate teenagers about the real impact of this disease. We have been fortunate to gain access to school children with our SunAWARE K-12 Curriculum. However, I realize that it will only be when government makes health education in the schools a priority, like obesity and bullying, that all children will learn the important facts about indoor tanning and skin cancer.

I agree with the Society for Public Health Education that health education must become a core subject in our schools. Without this educational priority, health education will continue to be marginalized by schools and eliminated in budgets. Please support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization vehicle, known as the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). This bill is in final stages and will be going to a vote by the Senate soon. ACT TODAY: Contact Your Senator to Request "Health" be Included as a Core subject in ECAA.

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