The use of tanning beds continues to rise as the Food and Drug Adminstration estimates around 30 million Americans use indoor tanning bed every year, and that includes 2.
3 million teens. However there is a controversy over whether or not these tanning beds are safe for humans to use. With over 10% of the United States population currently using tanning beds every year, it is of great concern to many scientists. According to USA Today, an international study that suggested the tanning beds could possibly be linked to as many as 400,000 cases of skin cancer every single year.
These statistics are certainly alarming, but they don’t always illustrate just how dangerous the risks people take are. Ashley Trenner was an avid tanner. Living in Washington state, she needed constant use of tanning beds to keep her bronze glow all year round, rain, snow or shine. She began tanning when she was in high school, but in the years after high school, her use of tanning beds only increased.
To outsiders, her increased use of tanning beds may seem strange, but according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, this isn’t unusual at all.UV light increases the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals are often released by your body when you do something good and make you feel great.
However it’s also possible to abuse your endophorins and become addicted easily.Tragically Ashley became addicted to the endorphins released whenever she went tanning.
Her mother desperately tried to help her out of her addiction, but it was of no use. Ashley was in her late 20s, the prime of her life, and she thought she was absolutely unstoppable. As she continued to go to the tanning beds a lesion began to grow on her skin. She ignored it, thinking that it would go away, however the lesion over time became too painful to be ignored. That’s when she decided to finally go to a dermatologist….
Ashley Trenner grew up in Washington State. The weather in Washington state, along with the rest of the Pacific Northwest can make it very difficult to maintain a tan all year round.
Ashley was always the center of any room and was mostly happy with her body, except one thing. Ashley had fair skin which bothered her a lot. Fair skin isn’t rare in the Pacific Northwest due to its weather, but Ashley always expected more out of herself. That’s when she began going to tanning beds several times a week. She would continue to go to tanning beds for 15 years straight.
Ashley was known by friends as outgoing, kindhearted and was always willing to help a friend in need. However Ashley, like so many young women, suffered from low self-esteem and horrible body image issues. Instead of weight, she was always concerned her skin wasn’t tanned enough.
So when Ashley and her mother started going tanning it seemed like her wishes had come true. At first it started out casually with Ashley and her mother going before a big date or before a vacation so they could look the part. Harmless, and very rare. But soon Ashley was outpacing her mother, going much more often. Ashley had become addicted to the feel-good chemicals every time she went under the UV rays. The tans were also boosting her self-esteem and she was feeling confident.
Much like everything that seems to make our lives much better with minimal effort, the tanning came at a cost. When Ashley was in her 20s her mother was begging that she stop going. Her mother was worried for her daughter’s health, but as Ashley wrote in her blog, she thought she was invincible.
I thought I was invincible and would never get skin cancer
Unfortunately being headstrong did not deter the very real risk. Ashley developed a small, thankfully benign, lesion which was promptly removed. Not longer after, however, the lesion returned. Ashley ignored it, thinking that it was benign again. The lesion continued to grow everyday and get more and more painful. Unable to ignore the pain any longer, Ashley finally agreed to go to a dermatologist.
At just 33-years-old, Ashley was diagnosed with melanoma.
Through the incredible work of doctors, the tumor and lymph nodes were removed. Ashley was cancer-free once more. Ashley remained cancer-free for 3 years, but the cancer wasn’t completely gone. In November of 2009 Ashley noticed a black and blue lump on her right hip. The melanoma had returned. The doctors had far darker outlooks this time.
Facing her grim outlook, Ashley decided she would make the most of it.
Thus Ashley began on her mission to spread awareness of the dangers of tanning beds.She wanted her story to be an important lesson to all who ignore the terrifying statistics. She went on TV station King 5 for an interview. The interview was shocking as Ashley laid on her hospital bed with half of her face paralyzed from the tumors.
One line from Ashley during the interview was easily the most powerful.
I paid money to be in the position I’m in now. I literally paid to get this terrible disease that is killing me.
The segment aired and soon Ashley received countless letters from strangers who had vowed that they would never tan. Ashley’s message managed to hit home.
Unfortunately, Ashley would not be able to fight off the second wave of melanoma. On her deathbed Ashley revealed her final wish.
If there’s one person’s life I can affect, that’s a beautiful gift I can give to somebody
Shortly after, on March 15, 2013 Ashley passed away after her seven-year-long war with melanoma.
Although it was too late for Ashley, both Oregon and Washington lawmakers were touched by her story and passed laws that would regulate the use of tanning beds more strictly.
Excessive use of tanning beds would be banned and establishments that offered tanning beds were required to turn heavy users away.Finally, on the one-year anniversary of Ashley’s death, two teenage daughters of Ashley’s close friend started a petition that would amass hundreds of signatures, all vowing to never use a tanning bed.
This tragic story is an important lesson for anyone who is using a tanning bed or is considering one. While it may seem very appealing, these beds can be addicting and can pose a health risk if abused.