PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When she was in high school and college, Jessica Rogowicz used tanning beds. Skin cancer wasn’t even a consideration.

“That’s the furthest thing from your mind. I guess I always thought bad things like that wouldn’t happen to me, that happens to other people. people you see on the news.”

Then she had a mole removed.

“I was honestly having it removed for cosmetic reasons, never thinking it would be melanoma. I was very much surprised. because you never think you’re going to be the one to be diagnosed with cancer when you’re three days away from turning 25 years old.”

“A lot of patients say why did I get this problem? This cancer. And what caused it?” says Allegheny Health Network cancer surgeon Dr. Howard Edington.

Cancer comes from an interaction between genetics and the environment.

“Radiation is certainly one of the major known causes,” says Dr. Edington.

As in ultraviolet radiation — from the sun or tanning beds.

It damages the DNA in skin cells. Damaged DNA is called a mutation. Mutations can lead to cancer.

Jessica’s case points to what a recent study shows — indoor tanning is linked to melanoma earlier in life.

“I didn’t realize how badly I was damaging my skin.”

Researchers compared people with melanoma, 100 who used tanning beds and 200 who didn’t. They took into account gender, skin and eye color, family history and sun exposure.

In the tanning bed group, melanoma developed a decade earlier.

The researchers found mutations more frequently in the tanning bed group, especially on the parts of the body exposed to the sun.

So forget the salon to get a base tan. It only adds to the total ultraviolet damage to the skin.

“I felt like I learned my lesson, I learned that tanning beds are not safe,” says Jessica, “I felt like I was the only person in the world who ever had cancer. Especially at 25 years old.”

To raise awareness, Jessica organizes a 5k race every year with the Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation.

“Skin cancer is not just skin cancer. It’s not just a little mole removal. It’s much more serious than what most people think it is.”

Dr. Maria Simbra