JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Melanoma was "just a word" to Emily Tandy when she frequented the tanning beds in the Madison, Mississippi, salon where she worked as a teenager.
It became a reality when she was diagnosed with the aggressive skin cancer in 2015 at age 27.
Now she's joining with the Mississippi Dermatology Association, Mississippi State Department of Health and the American Cancer Society to support legislation that would ban anyone under age 18 from using indoor tanning beds and lamps even once.
House Bill 1182 and Senate Bill 2076 would bar minors from using indoor tanning devices and would impose fines on salon owners who violate the rule. The Federal Drug Administration called for the same ban in December. The agency requires labels on tanning beds and lamps warning people under age 18 not to use the devices.
Supporters of the ban cite evidence of an increased risk of skin cancers from using tanning beds, especially for high school and college-age women.
In 2013 the CDC estimated about 20 percent of female high school students had used a tanning bed in the previous year. The estimate was more than 40 percent for white, female high school seniors. Exposure to the type of ultraviolet rays used in tanning devices for people younger than 35 increases the risk of melanoma by nearly 60 percent, according to the FDA. The American Cancer Society lists melanoma as the second most common cancer among women between ages 15 and 29.
The Mississippi State Department of Health estimates about 500 state residents will get the skin cancer this year and about 70 will die from it.
Tandy said she got her tanning salon job at age 17. Over the next two years, she spent 20 minutes in beds three to four times a week, despite getting blisters and bubbles on her skin and against her parents' wishes that she stop.
Last August, she was diagnosed with melanoma. Doctors managed to remove her damaged tissue before the cancer spread, but had Tandy waited any longer to get treatment, she said, "there wouldn't' have been much doctors could've done."
"If there is anything I would stress to young girls it's that tanning is just not worth it," Tandy said. "Every time you get into a tanning bed you are paying these companies to put your life in danger, and it's just not worth it."
This isn't the first proposed ban in Mississippi. In 2015, House and Senate bills died in committee. The state currently requires parents to accompany customers under age 14.
Nationwide, 13 states and the District of Columbia bar minors from using tanning devices and others have laws regulating the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Proposals to ban minors from using tanning devices have been introduced in Mississippi and 16 other states this year.
Members of the tanning industry call the proposed ban excessive.
"The word in the industry is 'moderation'," said James Fuller, an independent contractor who sells and repairs tanning beds. Fuller said he tries to teach his customers how to use the beds safely. "Education is key. Regulation is good for the industry, but there's got to be a balance."
He said he supports a tanning ban against anyone under age 16, but anyone older is an "adult with common sense."
"If you can drive and work a job, you should be able to tan freely," he said.
Sun Gallery Tanning Studio owner Melinda Murphy said a ban might have made sense 20 years ago when the industry first became popular, but not today. She said salon owners now are "very conscientious" of following health regulations and moderating how customers use tanning devices.
But there's no such thing as moderate exposure to ultraviolet rays from tanning beds or the sun, said Robert Brodell, head of the department of dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
"To intentionally damage your skin by exposing yourself to ultraviolet radiation — I don't see any reason to do that," Brodell said. "I think our children shouldn't be allowed to make bad decisions like that that permanently affect their health."