CHICAGO (AP) — As a young woman, Donna Moncivaiz would go to tanning salons looking for that perfect summer glow.
Now 51, Moncivaiz suffers from late-stage melanoma and she says the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, gall bladder, liver and brain. The Beach Park mother also allowed her daughter to tan and, at 25, she too was diagnosed with early-stage melanoma.
Doctors attribute both women’s melanoma to tanning beds and time spent outside without sunscreen, and that’s why Moncivaiz is among the most vocal supporters of pending legislation that would ban indoor tanning in Illinois for anyone younger than 18.
“I don’t want any mom to feel the guilt I feel, or go through what I’m going through,” said Moncivaiz, who testified in favor of the bill during the spring legislative session. Gov. Pat Quinn has until Saturday to act on the bill.
Dr. Judy Knox, a dermatologist from Springfield, has long advocated for a teen tanning ban, saying sometimes parents don’t know their kids are using tanning beds. She said ten sessions in a tanning bed doubles the risk for melanoma.
“The younger you are the more time you have then to develop that cancer,” Knox said. “There’s still a huge myth that people think a tan is healthy.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization say natural and artificial ultraviolet radiation are cancer-causing substances, and in May the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed order for stricter regulations on indoor tanning devices. The American Academy of Dermatology says minors shouldn’t use indoor tanning equipment because overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to skin cancer.
The bill would ban teens from using equipment that emits ultraviolet radiation, including sun lamps and tanning booths. They also could not use tanning beds that emit certain electromagnetic radiation wavelengths. The bill doesn’t apply to devices used in private residences, phototherapy devices used by physicians or spray tans.
Some tanning industry officials say the focus of government intervention should be on teaching moderation and that it’s unfair to blame salons for overexposure that might lead to cancer, warning that a teen tanning ban would damage business.
Nick Patel, CEO of Lincolnshire-based L.A. Tan, which has about 65 salons in Illinois, said he has closed a number of locations over the last 18 months and that the new legislation, if Quinn signs it, could mean more lost jobs. Patel said his employees are trained to coach customers to tan wisely.
“People just need to be educated more than anything else,” he says.
The Indoor Tanning Association, which represents thousands of salon operators, contests the links between tanning and cancer.
“Proponents of these laws always exaggerate the risks of exposure to ultraviolet light in order to get the attention of the public, the media and the government,” the ITA said in a May 2012 statement. The group supports parental or guardian consent for those under age 18 who want to tan.
Illinois law already bans tanning by anyone younger than 14 but allows minors between 14 and 17 to tan with parental permission. Salons that violate these rules can be fined $250. Teen tanning is banned altogether in Chicago and Springfield, and sponsors say the new bill would level the playing field for salons across the state.
Sen. Christine Radogno, a Lemont Republican, said she co-sponsored the bill as a mother of three daughters, one who worked in a salon. She said she hated it when her daughters would tan.
“We just have to make pale beautiful again,” Radogno said.
For Moncivaiz, it’s personal.
“I think the bill will save countless lives,” she said.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)