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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Do you really want a killer tan?

Skin cancer became a reality for Janet Cooley — at age 25.

Cooley had been ignoring a mole on her leg for a while. She finally went to have it examined after finishing pharmacy school at the UA.

The mole was removed, and the next night Cooley was informed she had melanoma.

Cooley said she was kind of “”freaked out”” but thought because it was skin cancer it wasn’t that serious, but then the doctors told her melanoma was dangerous.

“”That was all very, very scary,”” Cooley said. “”You just kind of don’t think when you’re young that it can happen to you. It just doesn’t seem real at all.””

Cooley had no family history of skin cancer and said she and her family were very shocked to learn she had melanoma.

“”None of us had any clue anything like that was coming; it was a total surprise,”” Cooley said.

Cooley is not an unusual case. For the staff at the Arizona Cancer Center, it is not uncommon to see patients in their 20s and 30s.

“”It’s a wake-up call,”” said Clara Curiel, assistant professor of medicine at the Arizona Cancer Center. “”People tend to think that skin cancer is a disease of the elderly and something that cannot happen to you.””

Cooley said she would advise people to see a dermatologist once a year and to practice safe sun behavior.

“”It can happen to anybody,”” Cooley said. “”I think it is important for people to realize how common it is in young people.””

Heather Hiscox, program development coordinator for the Skin Cancer Institute at the Arizona Cancer Center, and Lisa Quale, the center’s health educator, stressed that it is important to check skin regularly because the fatality rate of melanoma is extremely high if not caught early. Quale said melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, largely affects younger women.

“”Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25-30,”” according to the Aim at Melanoma Foundation’s Web site.

One major problem affecting young people is the use of tanning beds.

“”Using tanning beds under the age of 30 increases your risk (by) 75 percent for melanoma,”” Hiscox said.

She said the reason tanning beds are so dangerous is because they use ultraviolet light, which penetrates deeper levels of the skin.

“”For anyone who is tanning, whether it is inside or outside in the sun, tanning is always bad. You are exposing your skin to UV radiation,”” Quale said. “”If you are going to get a tan, get it out of a bottle; there is no such thing as a safe tan.””

Hiscox said she went through her dad having skin cancer, and, at that time, it was thought to be something that happened only to older people. It wasn’t until she began working at the clinic that she saw the magnitude of skin cancer.

“”Once I got into the clinic and saw people a bit younger than myself, it was terrifying,”” Hiscox said.

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