Krista Barnell, a 37-year-old skin cancer survivor, is sharing her story with high schoolers, starting with her diagnosis in 2009.
“My dermatologist noticed a mole on my back that looked a little funny,” Barnell says. “She removed it and the test came back as melanoma. It was just at the beginning stages of melanoma so I didn’t have to do any treatment. They did have to go back and remove a good-sized chunk from my back.”
A federal study finds people who begin tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have a much higher risk of melanoma.
Barnell’s grandfather died of melanoma at age 56. Being a survivor herself now, she’s passionate about spreading the message to young people who may be making the same mistakes she did.
“I loved to be in the tanning beds, ever since I was 14,” Barnell says. “You could never be tan enough back at that age. I loved to lay out and used baby oil and tanning oil and if you got sunburned, you knew you were going to get a really nice tan.”
Barnell has two younger nieces who she’s been striving to educate about the potential dangers of using a tanning bed.
“There’s self-tanners, there’s the spray tan,” Barnell says. “They have followed that, for the most part, but I know they had a big celebration, a homecoming or prom, and one of them went to a tanning bed and it just makes me cringe.”
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, while melanoma accounted for more than 73,000 new cases nationwide in 2015 and about 10,000 skin cancer deaths a year.
To use a tanning bed in Nebraska, you have to be at least 16 or be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.