Meghan Rothschild turned her own Stage II melanoma diagnosis at age 20 into a career in public speaking and advocacy. Six years later, Meghan, now a melanoma survivor, spreads her message of safe skin through speaking engagements at colleges and high schools around the country. She calls her campaign, “Surviving Skin.”
“I don’t know where I came up with the name Surviving Skin, but it just kind of became the name to what I was doing,” Meghan told Crushable. “I want to speak to as many colleges and high schools as possible. I just applied to be part of the National BACCHUS Conference, which is a health conference for student health advocates who want to bring back certain programs to their universities. If I could get into doing that, it would be exposure to all the major universities in the country. And that’s really the ultimate goal: to really get into colleges. You know when you go away to school and you get the safe sex talk, and the no alcohol talk and the don’t smoke talk. No one’s getting the safe tan, safe skin talk. My goal is to make that part of the yearly curriculum for incoming freshman or high school seniors. Even before high school seniors, because that’s when they start tanning.”
Meghan, who is very fair with reddish-brown hair, started tanning in indoor tanning salons at the age of 17, kicking off a once-a-week tanning routine that she admits may have bordered on addiction. “I honestly think that I was addicted to tanning,” Meghan told us, although she says she was going to the salon less often than young women typically go today. “They’re doing a lot of studies now on ‘tanorexia’ and whether it’s an addictive feeling. Because it releases endorphins when you go in tanning, they are saying that it is addictive.” Many people who tan also engage in other addictive behaviors, Meghan added.
And young women are going tanning at younger and younger ages. The statistics are scary, Meghan said. “If you use an indoor tanning bed just once a month, you increase your risk of melanoma by 75%,” she told us. “Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young women ages 25 to 32. And it’s the second most common form of cancer for people ages 15 to 29,” thanks in part to the rise of popularity of the indoor tanning bed and the deep, dark tans of people like Snooki.
Of course, there are things you can do to protect yourself — like avoiding indoor tanning, wearing SPF and seeking shade at the beach. “If you stop using a tanning salon, or you stop going out in the sun and start using SPF from here on out, you’re not causing any more damage to your skin,” Meghan said. “But everything you’ve done to your skin is irreversible. If you’ve had any burns before the age of 18, you’re at a greater risk to get melanoma….All that stuff, you can’t do anything to reverse it, which is really the most unfortunate part.”
Meghan, who is working with the Melanoma Foundation of New England to make indoor tanning for people under 16 illegal in Massachusetts, also wants other young women to spread her message. “The best way for young women to get involved is to bring this message to their campus, to their school,” she said. “You can reach out to me and make a program for your school campus. It’s great that you’re wearing sunblock and you’re protecting yourself but your three best friends probably don’t know that UV radiation can kill you. So it’s bringing that message, and getting involved, hosting an event, doing some fundraising for a skin cancer nonprofit in your area, or really just bringing that message to friends and family and your school.”
You can learn more about Meghan, her message and how to contact her at survivingskin.org.