AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A leading cancer researcher in Colorado wants the U.S. surgeon general to declare indoor tanning causes skin cancer. He believes officially announcing the connection could save lives.

Jodi Duke was 16 when she started tanning.

“Don’t tan, don’t go to tanning beds,” she said.

She was tired of being teased.

“(They’d say), ‘You really shouldn’t wear shorts, you’re so pale.’ ”

The fair-skinned, red head grew to tanning every day in the highest intensity bed available. At 19 she was devastated to learn a mole on her arm was Stage 4 melanoma, and she blames indoor tanning for her cancer.

Jodi Duke's scar from her battle with cancer (credit: CBS)

Jodi Duke’s scar from her battle with cancer (credit: CBS)

“Indoor UV tanning causes skin cancer,” Dr. Bob Dellavalle of the University of Colorado Cancer Center said.

Dellavalle says there’s no tiptoeing around tanning beds. In a commentary in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, he urges the surgeon general to make the definitive connection between indoor tanning and cancer.

Dr. Bob Dellavalle of the University of Colorado Cancer Center (credit: CBS)

Dr. Bob Dellavalle of the University of Colorado Cancer Center (credit: CBS)

“We know that with tobacco and smoking it led to a lot of public health campaigns and reduced smoking and reduced lung cancer. We would hope that the same thing would follow for UV radiation and skin cancer,” he said.

Duke’s survival has spurred her to speak out against indoor tanning.

“It won’t cause it for everyone, but it causes cancer,” she said.

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