Do you use a tanning bed? Why? Read the following story on how tanning beds ruined Salve Regina student Glenna Kohl’s life…you might want to rethink your next tanning visit.
In April 2005, while working out at her college gym in Rhode Island, 22-year-old Cape Cod native Glenna Kohl detected a hard, golf ball–size lump near her groin. She left the gym and went home to put ice on what seemed like a sports injury. The lump was melanoma, the deadliest of the three forms of skin cancer. When caught at an earlier stage, melanoma is highly curable. According to the doctors: “We can’t know for sure, but her odds of beating melanoma would have been greater had it been diagnosed earlier.” Glenna had always been a stickler for health. She participated in activities such as yoga, hiking, jogging, rowing, and was even a vegetarian. Health interested her so much that she applied for jobs in nutrition before graduating from college, despite having majored in finance.
But Glenna did indulge in one unhealthy practice: tanning. Like millions of young women, she believed that a bronzed look made her more attractive. While life-guarding, she exposed her naturally pale skin to the sun’s rays for 40 hours each week, protected only by sunscreen with an SPF of 4, says her friend and fellow lifeguard Jillian Blumberg. To maintain that copper glow, Glenna booked time at tanning salons. She began at age 16 and continued through college. A major report released this past August reclassified tanning beds as “cancer-causing to humans” and stated that a person’s melanoma risk rises 75 percent if he or she started using a tanning bed before age 30.
Glenna’s diagnosis was, sadly, part of a trend-Melanoma is the second most frequently reported cancer with women in their 20s, and it’s third only to breast and thyroid cancers for women in their 30s, reports the National Cancer Institute. “Melanoma is one of the few forms of cancer that’s on the rise,” says Dr. Rigel. The tan look so desired by young women may explain why 20- and 30-year-old somethings are diagnosed with the disease at alarming rates, he adds.
After Glenna’s hair thinned, and she began wearing a wig, she could no longer carry her relationship with her boyfriend, a solider in Afghanistan, for fear of dragging him down with the burden of the disease. Glenna’s condition continued to go downhill. Lesions in her brain triggered by the cancer slurred her speech, and she wasted away to about 80 pounds. In November, Glenna hit her head in the shower, resulting in brain trauma. A month later, she died of melanoma at home. She was 26. Her devastated parents launched the Glenna Kohl Fund for Hope, which raises awareness about melanoma as well as the importance of cancer screenings and UV protection. “Glenna’s not here to inform people of the dangers,” says Colleen, “so we’re going to continue her work for her.”
For a full story or how to donate to the fund, please visit here.
If you want to hear another story, check out this reporter’s experience with finding out she had cancer and how they had to remove it:
This article was written by Danielle Brouilette and Tate Sahagian.