Shelby: When 22-year-old Tara Petzoldt was just 15 years old, she noticed something new on her skin.
Tara Petzoldt: It was really just a light pink mole that was on the back of my leg. I remember when my mom initially told me that the diagnosis had come back as melanoma and I started crying.
Shelby: Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, and it develops in the body’s cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color. Getting melanoma before age twenty is rare, occurring in only about five hundred patients a year. But it is steadily rising, especially in 15 to 19 year old girls.
Dr. Vernon Sondak: Melanomas in children, they don’t always look exactly like in a grownup. They’re a little less likely to be dark black.
Shelby: A new study in the journal Pediatrics reported that from 1973 to 2009, new childhood and adolescent cases of melanoma increased 2% each year. Researchers think the increase could be due, in part, to the use of tanning salons.
In addition to playing soccer in the sun, Tara started going to a tanning salon when she was 14 years old.
Tara: I felt such a pressure to look tan because that’s what I felt was pretty.
Shelby: After having about 30 suspicious moles or spots removed, Tara is now cancer-free, and she has never returned to a tanning salon since.
Tara: I need to accept my fair skin and feel comfortable in that skin and not think that there’s any kind of a need to be tan or be something that I’m not.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.