Community Papers

Hundreds of Carihi students pledge to go tan-free

The Carihi Tan-Free Grad Committee blitzed the school with information about skin cancer in support of fellow student Elena Sirois (front row, centre) who is now recovered from a bout of melanoma that struck her last year. - Photo submitted
The Carihi Tan-Free Grad Committee blitzed the school with information about skin cancer in support of fellow student Elena Sirois (front row, centre) who is now recovered from a bout of melanoma that struck her last year.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A four-day pledge week campaign at Carihi Secondary last week, aimed at raising awareness about skin cancer and sun protection, resulted in more than 250 students promising not to deliberately tan this summer.

Organizer Elena Sirois, 17, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, in January.

The news came as a huge shock, particularly because she had not spent much time tanning. Sirois had surgery to remove the skin cancer and is now cancer-free, but the experience has motivated her to educate others, particularly young people, about how vital it is to protect your skin.

With support from Carihi staff, particularly counsellor Jane Kolmatycki, and 12 fellow Carihi graduating students who joined with her to form a Tan-Free Grad Committee, Sirois has devoted recent months to raising awareness about the potentially deadly effects of not protecting your skin.

Last week, the Tan-Free Grad Committee blitzed the school with information about skin cancer. They visited classrooms, Sirois shared her story, and they showed a moving video called Dear 16-Year-Old Me which features real people who battled skin cancer. The students set up an information table and asked all students, not just graduates, to pledge not to deliberately tan indoors or outdoors and to get to know their skin and watch it for changes.

“The goal was to get 100 pledges,” Sirois said. “On the first day, we had 222.”

At the end of the week, the students had collected 253 pledges and handed out hundreds of tattoos, bracelets, information packages and more.

Students added paper hands to a banner saying ‘Tanning is Out.”

Sirois said she is hoping that by telling others about her experience, her peers will choose to protect themselves this summer, and throughout their lives.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society:

1. There’s no safe way to get a tan. Tanning beds cause skin cancer.

2. Melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common and deadliest forms of cancer in young people between the ages of 15 and 29.

3. Tanning bed use before the age of 35 significantly increases your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.

4. UV rays from tanning beds can be five times stronger than the mid-day summer sun.

5. Tanned skin is damaged skin. Even when the tan fades, the damage is still there.

For more information, go to www.cancer. ca and click on ‘Sun and UV.’

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