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Miss Maryland’s Crusade About the Danger of Tanning Beds

Brittany Leitz is a beautiful woman who has used her talents and natural beauty to succeed as Miss Maryland, as a Redskins cheerleader, and as a public spokesperson. Brittany also has melanoma. Just a year after her melanoma surgery, Brittany competed for and won the title Miss Maryland 2006. Part of her motivation was to bring more awareness to skin cancer detection and prevention. When she was crowned Miss Maryland on July 1, 2006, Brittany Lietz became a woman on a mission to educate others about the dangers of unprotected exposure to the sun’s often deadly rays.

Her message: “I don’t want anyone to go through what I have. I keep reminding people that skin cancer can happen to you. You’re not immune to this,” she said. She has made a special effort to speak before audiences of teenagers. “Teenagers just don’t listen to their parents. That’s why it’s our job as skin cancer survivors to step up,” she said.”This is such a preventable cancer. Wear a sunscreen of a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 every day. Avoid tanning beds and get screened by a dermatologist regularly.

Brittany has brought her passion for skin cancer awareness to a variety of audiences. She’s encouraged her fellow Miss America contestants to stop tanning, testified before legislators in states considering bills to limit access to tanning salons by minors, and spoken to numerous groups, most commonly high school students. “As bad as my melanoma was, I also have been very fortunate to serve as Miss Maryland, which gave me a forum to educate my peers about the risks of indoor tanning”. With the Miss Maryland program, I am proud to say that all of my Miss Maryland sisters do not use the tanning beds anymore because of my crusade against using them.”

Four years later, Brittany’s impact across the nation is everywhere! Her story was profiled on national and print news media, on the American Academy of Dermatology website, and in the NIH Magazine “Medline Plus”. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation (www.melanomaresource.org), and has been featured in two of the best websites on melanoma: the Aim at Melanoma Foundation (http://www.aimatmelanoma.org.) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (http://melanomaresearchalliance.org/).

Has her crusade made a difference? You bet! There are many areas where she has been a catalyst for making changes and increasing awareness. While it is not possible to know how to attribute her message to the public with the responses at the government level, substantial changes are now going on in the United States, in Canada, and in Great Britain. Here is a summary in North America:

FTC ACTIONS AGAINST TANNING SALOONS:

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Indoor Tanning Association has been charged with making false health and safety claims about indoor tanning. “The messages promoted by the indoor tanning industry fly in the face of scientific evidence,” said David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The industry needs to do a better job of communicating the risks of tanning to consumers.”

The FTC complaint alleges that in March 2008, the association launched an advertising campaign designed to portray indoor tanning as safe and beneficial. The campaign included two national newspaper ads, television and video advertising, two Web sites, a communications guide, and point-of-sale materials that were provided to association members for distribution in local markets. In addition to denying the skin cancer risks of tanning, the campaign allegedly also made these false claims:

1.Indoor tanning is approved by the government;
2.Indoor tanning is safer than tanning outdoors because the amount of ultraviolet light received when tanning indoors is monitored and controlled;
3.Research shows that vitamin D supplements may harm the body’s ability to fight disease; and
4.A National Academy of Sciences study determined that “the risks of not getting enough ultraviolet light far outweigh the hypothetical risk of skin cancer.”

The complaint also alleges that the association failed to disclose material facts in its advertising.Under its settlement with the Commission, the association is prohibited from making the misrepresentations challenged in the complaint, from misrepresenting any tests or studies, and from providing deceptive advertisements to members. The settlement also requires that future association ads that make safety or health benefits claims for indoor tanning may not be misleading and must be substantiated.

Further, the order requires that certain future advertisements from the association contain disclosures. Ads that make claims about the safety or health benefits of indoor tanning are required to clearly and prominently make this disclosure:

“NOTICE: Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer and can cause serious eye injury.”

FDA ACTIONS:

This spring, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is examining its options regarding indoor tanning regulations and different ways of informing consumers about the potential health risks of UV exposure.

The FDA will weigh the recommendations of a special scientific advisory panel – to be discussed in an open hearing – this March. Among the suspected areas of review are the Class 1 status of tanning beds (at the lower end of risk when it comes to medical devices), warning signage and the current Sunlamp Standards.

The FDA will weigh the recommendations of a special scientific advisory panel – to be discussed in an open hearing – this March. Among the suspected areas of review are the Class 1 status of tanning beds (at the lower end of risk when it comes to medical devices), warning signage and the current Sunlamp Standards.

IN CANADA:

Also,the Canadian Dermatology Association has launched a TV and radio public service announcement, “Indoor Tanning is Out,” that explains how the ultraviolet (UV) rays from tanning beds can be up to 10 to 15 times higher than those that radiate from the midday sun.

IN MARYLAND:

Brittany serves on the Advisory Board of the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation based here in Maryland. My friend Bob Nicolay has been an ardent advocate for regulating tanning facilities in the state of Maryland. Through testimony and written support, the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation was actively involved in passage of the “first in nation” complete ban on teen tanning with regulations unanimously approved on November 10,2009 by Howard County, Maryland’s Board of Health. Effective November 12, the regulations prohibit “minors’ access to indoor tanning devices as well as regulate the sanitary conditions and operation of tanning facilities.” Currently, at least 31 states regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors. For more information, go to their website: www.melanomaresource.org.

All in all, Brittany Leitz was successful in her mission and her public message really made a difference on many levels. Indeed, I believe she is a “gamechanger”! Thanks Brittany…

See my other blogs about skin cancer prevention and the risks of indoor tanning.

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One Comment → “Miss Maryland’s Crusade About the Danger of Tanning Beds”

  1. Joe Schuster says:

    Dr. Batch;
    When sharing information with the public on melanoma, perhaps you should include Dr.Darrell Rigel’s suggestions in predicting melanoma risk which could be used as a quick screening
    method for people to assess their own risk.

    1. History of blistering sunburns as a teenager
    2. Red or blonde hair
    3. Marked freckling of the upper back – a sign of excessive sun exposure and
    that a person is susceptible to it
    4. Family history of melanoma
    5. History of Actinic Keratoses (AKs) – considered the earliest stage in the
    development of skin cancer
    6. Outdoor summer jobs for three or more years as a teenager

    Perhaps Ms. Lietz shares some (if not all) any of these traits.

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