Doctors are people too, as Dr. Travis Kidner discovered when a malignant melanoma was found on his back. Yes, the noted oncologist and melanoma surgeon with the Rox Center in Beverly Hills had been diagnosed with the very disease he had treated in so many patients before. But unlike the unknowing patients who often came into his office, Dr. Kidner understood his past, present, and future with the disease, and one fact became especially clear to him: That supposedly healthy tan is anything but.
As a surgical oncologist, Dr. Kidner has special insight into melanoma, particularly its detection, its treatment, and its occurrence. He quickly realized his melanoma could be traced back to family vacations at the beach, as well as his use of tanning beds as an adolescent. In fact, Dr. Kidner’s mother went to the tanning bed to treat her psoriasis, and popular opinion at the time said a tan was good for you and a sign of health. However, he also knew his family’s history with melanoma, which is one reason Dr. Kidner took care to get screened for melanoma every six months — a plan that proved particularly well advised.
Cut to the current day, and Dr. Kidner has seen the same fascination with glowing skin and amber tans among the young generation. Where melanoma was once more prevalent to patients aged 40 or older, Dr. Kidner has detected and removed the cancer from 20-somethings.
Once more, tanning beds are the likely culprits. Medical research has shown that a single tanning bed session boosts the risk of developing skin cancer by 20 percent, with a 2 percent jump accompanying every follow-up session. For people aged 35 and younger using a tanning bed, the chances of developing melanoma rise by 75 percent.
More telling, melanoma rates are increasing, particularly in younger patients, and the current change of developing skin cancer during a lifetime is 1 in 50. Melanoma itself makes up 5 percent of skin cancer cases, but it accounts for a disproportionate 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. In the United States, more than 76,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year, resulting in 9,000 deaths.
As for Dr. Kidner’s diagnosis, he underwent the operation to remove the cancerous growth and, even better, received more welcome news: The melanoma had not traveled to the lymph nodes under his arm, though the doctor’s family history said he faced a 15 percent chance of that occurrence. Dr. Kidner had dodged the possibility of a relatively benign Stage I cancer becoming an alarming Stage III, which would’ve sliced his survival rate by half.
Life goes on, and Dr. Kidner can look forward to a healthy, normal life with his wife and two young children. However, this also means he continues to see instances of melanoma in younger patients. As a doctor, he will treat them, but he also feels the drive and responsibility to prevent these cancers from developing.
To address these developments, the FDA is weighing revised regulations for tanning beds. For starters, tanning beds may be given a new designation as medical devices, lifting them above the current status they share with Band-Aids and tongue depressors. Under the proposals to the FDA, tanning beds would carry warning labels to discourage use by young people and to urge them to be screened for skin cancer, much as the labels on cigarette packets work. Additionally, the FDA would require makers of tanning bed parts to demonstrate their electrical systems are safe, the lamps put out the correct amount of energy, and timers function as described.
With melanoma, it starts with a simple message: Rethink your tanning habit. Unlike beauty, skin cancer is more than skin deep. Don’t let this entirely preventable disease claim you or your loved ones, and don’t forget to get screenings regularly. As Dr. Kidner can attest, these simple steps can spare you the suffering of a bout with cancer.
To reach Dr. Travis Kidner to get your moles checked or seek cancer surgery/treatment, contact:
Rox Cancer Center – www.roxcancercenter.com
BEVERLY HILLS OFFICE
120 South Spalding Drive Suite 340
Beverly Hills, CA 90212