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The Boston Globe

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Perspective

A grave glow

We kicked the cultural myth that smoking is cool. So why can’t we get teens to stop romanticizing tanning?

In May, I watched a group of high school students pose for pictures before their prom. To prepare for this rite of passage, nearly all the girls — including my daughter — spent hours on tanning beds. My wife and I had tried to talk Laura out of signing up for a three-month promotion at a salon. Your skin is naturally beautiful, we said, don’t risk hurting it. We mentioned a new study that showed an increase in cases of melanoma — the most serious form of skin cancer, particularly among females age 15 to 19. But getting in the way of a 17-year-old and her prom plans is like parking a car on the tracks when the train’s approaching. If “everyone” was going to be bronzed, Laura was, too. It’s tougher than you might think to get teenagers to consider long-term consequences.

For me and a lot of others, those potential consequences are reality. Laura’s prom photos were taken a few hours after a patch of skin cancer was excised from my left arm, probably the result of sun damage inflicted years ago. It’s a procedure I’ve undergone four times.

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