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A Message From Dr. DePinho

Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. Photo by F. Carter SmithMD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program aims to significantly reduce cancer deaths not only by finding new methods to detect and treat cancers, but also by preventing the disease in the first place.

The cancer prevention community rejoiced this summer with the Texas Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 329. Effective Sept. 1, this legislation prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using tanning salons and was authored by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and sponsored by Rep. John Zerwas, M.D. (R-Katy). The measure received widespread support from numerous organizations and public health advocates, including the Texas Dermatological Society, the American Cancer Society, the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Hospital Association, the Texas Association of Health Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Through coordination of MD Anderson’s Governmental Relations office, the institution served as the primary scientific and clinical resource, with input from Moon Shots Program leaders, including the melanoma moon shot team and a platform dedicated to cancer prevention and control.

Passage of Senate Bill 329 marks a gratifying moment for those who know the correlation between melanoma risk and teens’ exposure to the artificial ultraviolet light emitted by tanning beds.

Jeffrey Gershenwald, M.D., professor in Surgical Oncology and co-leader of the melanoma moon shot team, and Michael Wilkerson, M.D., a dermatology professor at UT Medical Branch in Galveston and president of the Texas Dermatological Society, noted these staggering statistics in a recent op-ed piece:

  • Just 11 indoor tanning sessions before the age of 18 increases melanoma risk by 85%.
  • The average 17-year-old girl in the United States tans about 25 times a year, and the risk of melanoma goes up with increased tanning.
  • UV radiation and UV-emitting tanning devices are classified as carcinogens. The World Health Organization includes them on a carcinogens list with tobacco smoke and plutonium.

I applaud the leadership, planning, action, hard work and team effort that have brought this important tanning bed legislation to fruition in Texas. It’s a huge step forward for skin cancer prevention. Together, we are Making Cancer History®.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center