As reported by The Hartford Courant, August 20, 2010.

Tanning as a Teen Can Mean Cancer as an Adult

Use of Tanning Beds Before Age 35 Increases Risk of Melanoma by 75 percent

By Teresa M. Pelham

Although I'd rather celebrate back-to-school week with a trip to the spa, this year I'll be marking the occasion by spending a day with a surgeon at UConn Medical Center, having a basal cell carcinoma removed from my forehead.

Good times.

The thing is, I probably could have avoided this if I had skipped some of those good times in my youth, namely the cycle of sunburn-blister-peel I managed to integrate into every summer of my less-than-brilliant teenage years.

"Young people tend to think they're not vulnerable to skin cancer," said Hanspaul Makkar, the nice dermatologist who will remove the spot in question. "Most of the damage that leads to skin cancer happens before the age of 18."

Before the age of 18, I not only spent days at the beach with my brown-haired, olive-skinned friends without much thought of sunscreen, I also signed up for a series of visits to a tanning salon "to get a good base" before a vacation and to look less pasty for the prom.

"We still hear that from people, saying that if they get that base tan they are safer," said Makkar. "The notion of a tan protecting you is not accurate. You're still putting yourself at risk for melanoma."

Indeed, the use of tanning beds before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Melanoma is the deadliest of the three types of skin cancer, killing more than 8,500 people last year.

Today's parents including me - are much more vigilant about protecting their kids from excess sun exposure. The amount of sunscreen our family of freckly Irish people goes through during a week in a sunny climate borders on absurd.

Education about skin cancer and the availability of sunscreens that actually work have led to a much more aware society when it comes to letting our kids get too much sun. But just because we don't see as many 10-year-olds with peeling shoulders as we did 30 years ago doesn't mean parents are off the hook.

Girls who are at least 16 in Connecticut have no restrictions on how many times they can lie in a tanning chamber. Many young women admit to sneaking to indoor tanning salons during lunch or between classes without their parents' knowledge. Of the more than 1 million people who visit tanning salons every day, about 71 percent are girls and young women aged 16 to 29. Is one of those bronzed beauties your daughter?

Although the clearly brilliant Snooki from "Jersey Shore" quipped that she'd have to quit the tanning habit because of the new 10 percent tax being charged to indoor tanners, a recent study among adolescent girls showed that tanning bed use is growing. It's a $2 billion-a-year industry.

(I'm not really sure how I feel about targeting tanners with a tax as a way to improve our nation's health. Right, it's not healthy, but neither is eating McDonald's and watching TV five hours a day.)

When prom season arrives, help your daughter find the perfect dress and killer shoes. But make sure she holds off on the to-die-for tan. Melanoma doesn't look good on anybody. Not even Snooki.