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Bill Gillette is a freelance writer based in Richmond Heights, Ohio.
It's doubtful the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) could have picked a better spokeswoman for its recently launched PSA campaign to educate teens about the risks of indoor tanning.
Barely out of her own teenage years, Brittany Lietz, 21, is the reigning Miss Maryland and will represent that state in the Miss America contest Jan. 29. More than her status as a role model for teenage girls, however, what makes Ms. Lietz an ideal spokeswoman for the PSAs is this: She's a melanoma survivor who strongly believes she developed the disease by tanning indoors.
Lietz says she began using tanning beds when she was 17, increasing her sessions from eight minutes once a week to 25 minutes a day four days a week. Lietz was diagnosed with stage II melanoma when she was 20 and has undergone several surgeries, one of which left her with an eight-inch scar on her back. Lietz says she's in remission now and doing well.
Ms. Lietz not only appears in the PSA spots but visits high schools and colleges to talk to youth. She fills similar roles for the Joanna Nicolay Melanoma Foundation, the Skin Care Foundation, the National Foundation of Cancer and the Coalition for Skin Cancer.
"I want to stretch my message as far as I can to teach young adults about skin cancer," she says.
Lietz's efforts to combat skin cancer in youths won't end when her beauty-pageant career does: She's in her first year at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Her specialty? Pediatric oncology.