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Cancer patient’s dying desire comes true with passage of tanning bed law

  • Written by Rebecca Yeung, UW News Lab

Ashley Trenner has proven that people can still influence the community even after death.
Trenner, a Woodinville resident, died of metastatic melanoma after using tanning beds frequently in her early years. Last month,Trenner’s parents followed through on her dying wish to protect children under 18 from tanning bed harm.

Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 6065 on March 27, which made Washington the seventh state that prevents children under 18 from using tanning devices, including sunlamps, tanning booths and tanning beds. The Senate passed the bill with a 42- 6 vote, and the law will go into effect in late June.

trenner2Woodinville resident Ashley Trenner started tanning in 1988, at age 16, and kept using tanning beds until she was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006. After her death in 2013, her parents achieved her goal of protecting other people from the dangers of tanning when a law passed last month banning children under 18 from tanning beds and booths. (Photo courtesy of Karen Trenner)Trenner first started tanning with her mom at 16. In 1988, tanning was a new trend, and its risks weren’t well known. As a teenage girl, Trenner wanted to have a glow on her skin to cover the acne she had and make herself look younger.

Trenner became addicted to tanning throughout the years, according to her mother, Karen Trenner. As Trenner’s great-uncle also suffered from melanoma, the most deadly kind of skin cancer, Karen Trenner had warned her daughter about it, but she didn’t listen.

“Listen to your mom,” Karen Trenner reminds all teenagers. “We are not trying to be mean; we want to help you live a happy and healthy life. We want the best for you.”

Trenner was diagnosed with stage four melanoma in 2006. She then became an active speaker about the dangers of tanning bed use.

“If there’s one person’s life that I can affect, then that’s a beautiful gift that I could give to somebody ’cause I don’t want them to end up like me at all,” said Trenner in an interview with King 5. “It’s just not worth it. I can’t express that enough. It’s just not worth it.”

Passing Senate Bill 6065 was one of Trenner’s final wishes before she died on March 15, 2013.
After Trenner’s death, her parents started writing to Washington state representatives. They gathered people to donate to AIM at Melanoma Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to help melanoma patients and their families, and educate people, especially teens, about the dangers of tanning.

Trenner was unconcerned about the dangers of tanning, saying that she didn’t care if she died from tanning, as long as she died tan. By the time she regretted it, it was already too late.
Indoor tanning causes more cancer than smoking, according to a JAMA Dermatology study. Some sunlamps emit doses of UVA up to 12 times higher than that of the sun. One indoor tanning session increases a person’s chance of developing melanoma by 20 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. There is an 87 percent higher risk of melanoma if a person starts tanning before the age of 35.

Jasmine Lee, who has used tanning beds in order to add a little light in winter, said she knew it was harmful.

“But so is eating fatty and sweet food. Or using microwaves,” she said.

If you want to get a tan, pharmacist Michael Porter from Trios Health recommends using tanning spray, tanning airbrushing, or tanning lotion that is organic, vegan and paraben-free.
“Nice way to get skin cancer is using a tanning bed,” he added.

The owner of Rock Star Tan Bar and Desert Sun Tanning salons refused to comment on how the law would affect business.

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