Oklahomans under the age of 18 may be banned from using tanning beds in the future.
State lawmakers are considering two bills that would restrict the indoor tanning age.
The American Cancer Society is pushing for the change and enlisted a familiar face to personalize their effort.
“It was self-inflicted, what I did to myself,” said Caryn Ross as she addressed the crowd.
Ross is more comfortable behind a stovetop than a podium, endearing viewers with her weekly cooking segments as Sassy Mama.
Now, she has captivated a different audience, sharing her story with cancer patients, survivors and advocates at the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network Day at the Oklahoma state Capitol.
“He said, ‘Caryn, I’m sorry, you have melanoma, you have skin cancer,’” Ross recalled of her September 2015 diagnosis.
Ross and the rest of the advocates are supporting House Bill 1471 and Senate Bill 508 which both prohibit anyone 18 and under from using tanning beds in Oklahoma.
“Honestly, for prom, that's what you did,” Ross explained. “You would just tan and tan and tan, until I was literally darker than the woodwork."
Ross started tanning at age 15 and said it was like an addiction.
Last fall, at age 44, a freckle on her back turned out to be melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
She must now see a doctor every four months to make sure the cancer has not returned.
Ross said she will have a life-long relationship with dermatologists, oncologists and surgeons just because she used a tanning bed.
“It is a level one carcinogen, so if you are going to buy your child a tanning package, offer them a pack of cigarettes as you go in, too, because they are the exact same level,” Ross told News 9.
University of Minnesota researchers recently discovered that women under 50 were two to six times more likely to develop melanoma if they had tanned indoors.
An Oklahoma City dermatologist, whose daughter is a melanoma survivor, said children seem to think they are bulletproof and that is when adults must step in.
"We need to act in Oklahoma and we need to act quickly,” said Dr. Raymond Cornelison, past president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “We are protecting the health of our children and we are charged as adults with doing that."
This year, 570 Oklahomans will be diagnosed with melanoma and 130 will die from it.
Opponents said the bills would take away current freedoms and may hurt small businesses like tanning salons.
House Bill 1471 passed out of subcommittee on Tuesday and now heads to the full Appropriations and Budget Committee.