skin cancer due to tanning beds
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
February 1, 2024 ·  6 min read

The Danger of Tanning Beds: 4 Women, 4 Cases of Cancer

It’ll never happen to me, thinks everyone. No one thinks about cancer on a beautiful day at the beach with no sun protection, or relaxing in a sun bed, waiting for that perfect golden glow. There’s a false sense of security. Not me, they think. I’m safe.

Cancer patients had thought the same thing, yet years of painful operations and disfiguring sores have proved them wrong. Cancer can happen to anybody, even those with naturally dark skin. These four women paid a high price for chasing sun-kissed skin. 

Tawny Dzierzek: “This is What Cancer Looks Like!”

The 29-year-old nurse did not hide her condition from the world. She shared a selfie of her lesion-covered face — a result of using tanning beds four times a week for years — on Facebook with the caption: “”This is what skin-cancer treatment can look like.

“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!

She expresses the fear of leaving her children motherless Beca

Her post has been shared by over 150,000 people. 

She later added an edit to explain her story further. Her first diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma was at 21, which had recurred five times since then. Some people in the comments of her post justified their own tanning habits because they use the bed less frequently than her. Yet Dzierzek clarified: “I laid up to four times a week. Yes, that is excessive. Keep in mind that was not my typical frequency… Most of the time I tanned 1-2 times per week. There were weeks I didn’t tan at all.” [1]

Jade Thrasher: A Hole in Her Nose

Jade Thrasher felt pressure from a young age to have golden skin. At 13, she was already in the tanning bed, have three 20-minute sessions a week for 11 years.

Her parents kept a sunbed at home, but Thrasher preferred to use one in a salon. Years later, the insecurities to have golden skin returned before her wedding, when she bought her own tanning bed. 

In 2014, she noticed a spot on her nose, like a pimple or boil that kept bursting and never healing. She took some tests that diagnosed her with cancer. She was 24 years old. 

Thrasher was a registered nurse and knew what to expect from the treatment, but that period of her life was terrifying. Her husband, Matthew, and the rest of her family feared she would die from the disease.

In surgery, the only way to remove the cancer was to cut it out completely — leaving a coin-shaped hole above Thrasher’s left nostril. 

“I want teenagers to see the photo of the hole in my nose so that they know what could happen,” she says.

“I used to have a sunbed in my house, but I’ve thrown it in the trash. I didn’t want to sell it, because I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I went through.”

Fortunately, she didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy since the cancer was caught early enough. Thrasher still has regular checks, as well as psychological wounds to heal. [2]

Kory Feltz: “It’d Burn Myself on Purpose”

Kory Feltz was bullied for being pale, which led her into the tanning bed at the young age of 13. She’d overexpose and burn herself on purpose, anything to get rid of her naturally light skin. Fourteen years later, she was diagnosed with cancer — for the first time.

A malignant lump was surgically removed from her calf, but that disfigurement was not enough. Cancer patches covered her body that needed chemotherapy cream. There was also a cancerous mole on her lip that left a huge scar in the corner of her mouth and required reconstructive surgery.

“I knew it was bad when I noticed little mobility in my mouth while trying to ask the nurse if I looked like Kylie Jenner,” Feltz recalls. “Her facial expression to that question led me to the conclusion that it wasn’t good.” [3]

Lisa Pace: 86 Operations

Lisa Pace had a self-proclaimed addiction to sunbeds, which began in high school. She’d use one almost every day like she was at war with her fair skin, a routine she regrets. 

At the age of 23, Pace entered a war of a different kind. A routine health check led her to a dermatologist who gave her the first diagnosis of skin cancer. A chunk of flesh was removed from her thigh and calf, and Pace though she was over and done with the disease.

However, she kept tanning. She had no idea what it was doing to her skin.

Within a year of the first operation, she found a spot on her cheek, then more on her face and legs. The treatment and recurring cancer set off a dizzying cycle for years with spots developing all over her body. At one point, she was having surgery to remove skin cancer ever three months.

To date, Pace has undergone almost 90 operations. [4]

Dangers of Tanning Beds

Tanned skin is damaged skin, no matter what the beauty industry says. The bronzed skin look is caused by the body producing melanin to prevent further injury to the burnt skin. Doesn’t sound so attractive in those term, does it? Worst of all, skin damage is cumulative, which means it all begins with the first tan. 

Some studies estimate that the risk of skin cancer increases by 75% for people who use tanning beds before the age of 35. Despite doctors’ warnings, tanning salons are built on myths that indoor tanning is safer than outdoor and a good source of vitamin D. No evidence backs either of these claims.

In fact, tanning beds provide more ultraviolet radiation than the sun with much more intensity.

In 2009, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer categorized tanning beds as Class 1 human carcinogens. [5] [6] 

How to Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

One in five Americans develop skin cancer by age 70. Allow that statistic to break the fantasy of that will never happen to me. Here’s some tips to stay safe:

  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeved-shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses
  • Us natural mineral based (i.e. non-nano zinc), broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days
  • Seek shade when possible, especially during 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is the strongest
  • Self-examine your skin regularly to catch cancer in early stages when it’s most treatable, and visit a health care practitioner if you have any concerns
  • Stay away from the tanning beds! [7]


  1. Tawny Dzierzek April 26, 2015
  2. Madlen Davies. Nurse who began using sunbeds aged 13 reveals coin-shaped HOLE surgeons cut out of her nose after she developed skin cancer April 12 ,2016
  3. ALyce Collins. Sunbed addict who got skin cancer asked ‘do I look like Kylie Jenner?’ after surgery May 3,2019
  4. 43-Year-Old Tennessee Woman Has Had 86 Skin Cancer Surgeries in the Past 20 Years
  5. Skin Cancer Foundation. Tanning and Your Skin. June 2019
  6. American Academy of Family Physicians. The Dangers of Tanning Beds. January 7, 2017
  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Prevent Skin Cancer.