State Representative Robyn Gabel, right, receives petitions from the Glenbrook South student group Skins of Steel. The students are supporting a bill now before the legislature that bans youth under 18 years of age from tanning parlors.

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Nine students from Skins of Steel, a Glenbrook South High School group, traveled last week to the Evanston offices of State Senator Jeff Schoenberg and State Representative Robyn Gabel to demonstrate their support of the legislators’ bill to limit underage access to tanning salons. They handed over to Rep. Gable petitions supporting the bill.

Current law prevents children under 14 from patronizing tanning parlors, and teens aged 14-17 may use a tanning parlor only with written parental permission, said Rep. Gabel. A bill, still pending, sponsored by Sen. Schoenberg and Rep. Gabel would bar anyone under 18 from tanning parlors.

During hearings on the bill, said Rep. Gabel, “One legislator asked the tanning parlor owners if people could put on sun block before they go into the tanning parlor, and the owner said, ‘Yes.’”

Glenbrook South had a “sun-safe year,” last year, with a lot of student advocacy, particularly against tanning parlors. Students tend to go to such parlors around the time of school dances, they said. Last year, however, the editorial board of the student paper decided to refuse advertisements from tanning parlors, said Henrietta Saunders, treasurer of the Skins of Steel group.

Evanston resident Tom Mannard, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society’s Aim at Melanoma project, said he would take the students to Springfield, where they could talk directly with other legislators. Sixty votes are needed in the House of Representatives to pass the bill.

“I will take [these petitions] to Springfield to show the legislators there are lots of people under the age of 18 who support this bill,” said Rep. Gabel.  “Education is the key.”

Facts About Skin Cancer

The American Cancer Society has provided the following facts about skin cancer and exposure to ultra-violet (UV) radiation:

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, accounting for nearly half of all cancers here.

More than two million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. More than 68,000 cases of melanoma were reported in 2010.

Melanoma is one of the most common cancers diagnosed among young adults. ACS projects that in Illinois there will be approximate 2,280 new melanoma cases disgnosed this year, and an estimated 360 people in Illinois will die from the disease each year.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from the sun is a known cause of skin cancer. Tanning lamps and booths are sources of UV radiation. People with excessive exposure to UV radiation from these sources are at greater risk for skin cancer.

On an average day, more than one million Americans use tanning salons. Research shows that nearly 70 percent of indoor tanners are female, primarily 16 to 29 years old.

Those who use tanning beds before age 35 increase their lifetime risk of melanoma by 75 percent.