Patricia Krentcil, the woman once known as “Tan Mom” tells SurvivorNet she’s given up her tanning-salon habit and maintains she never put her 5-year-old daughter in a tanning bed — an accusation that led to her 2012 child-endangerment charges.
A Tanning Salon Visit Changed Her Life
Although all charges against her were dropped, Krentcil was vilified in the media when her 2012 story went viral. ‘It was no different than taking your child along to get your nails done,” she insists. “My daughter is a redhead with fair skin.Read More
She was a child. I would never expose her to a tanning bed — even the salon owner told police that Anna was not in the room,” she notes.
The experience — which included six days in jail — was “horrific,” Krentcil says.
“There is an exponential increase in patients who develop melanomas who have been to tanning salons,” explains Dr. Anna Pavlick, an oncologist at NYU Langone Health.
Like anyone who uses an indoor-tanning bed, Krencil’s habit puts her own health at risk, according to a study released by the American Academy of Dermatology:
After just one indoor-tanning session, a person’s risk of developing melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — increases by 20%. If that person is below the age of 35, the risk increase is actually 59% — and continues to increase with every subsequent use.
“There is an exponential increase in melanomas in patients who have been to tanning salons,” says Dr. Anna Pavlick, an oncologist at NYU Langone Health.
Dr. Cecila Larocca on getting your moles evaluated for signs of skin cancer.
“I Lucked Out” — But Did She?
Krencil, 52, belongs a generation of women who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s who slathered on baby oil and baked in the sun. “Back then, there wasn’t sunscreen. There was no awareness of what the sun could do to you,” she says, adding, “I lucked out. I don’t have skin cancer, wrinkles, all that stuff. But I am more aware.”
She insists that her darker skin has protected her. “I’m grateful,” she says, adding that she’s never been diagnosed with skin cancer. “I used to tan 7 days a week, go to the beach. Now, I don’t go to salons. When I go out in the sun, I do use protection now. I have changed.”
Darker Skin Not Immune To Skin Cancer
People with darker complexions are not immune to skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: “While skin cancers are less common in non-white ethnic groups, when they occur, they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis. One study showed that late-stage melanoma diagnoses are more common in Hispanic and Black patients than in non-Hispanic white patients.”
Moms As Sun-Safe Role Models
Moms, it turns out, can have a powerful influence over their daughters’ tanning habits: “Maternal tanning behavior and maternal permissiveness toward indoor tanning are strong predictors of daughters’ indoor tanning [use],” a study published in JAMA Dermatology found.
“I talk to my children about sun protection. When we go outside they’re very aware. They wear 30 SPF or higher, they put on zinc. They know to be careful. We talk about it.”
“My kids are my life. People today don’t call me “Tan Mom” anymore,” she adds. “I’m a caring person who cares about everybody,” she says. “I want everyone to know that I’ve changed my way of tanning.”
Colon Cancer: Supporting Her Estranged Husband
News of Krentcil’s estranged husband’s colon cancer diagnosis has put her back in the headlines. The diagnosis, she says, means setting aside their differences. “We’ve been together almost twenty years,” she tells SurvivorNet. “He’s going to need me to lean on.”
Many people are anxious about the prospect of a colonoscopy, but, says Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai: “You shouldn’t die from embarrassment.”
Richard Krentcil was hospitalized for a stroke and heart attack two weeks ago. That’s when the diagnosis came: “We found out then he had stage 4 colon cancer,” Krentcil explains. “He starts chemo next week. I told him, ‘I’m not going to desert you in this time of need.'”
“We may not think of ourselves as husband and wife, but we have two little ones,” she says. “Now I feel a little closer to him.”
Of couples and cancer, she says: “Stand strong. You have to vigilant and tough. If there’s a bad moment going on, I always say, walk away, cool down, and come back and be supportive of each other.”
But for families like Krentcil’s, the coronavirus is making cancer treatment even more challenging; “The whole situation is very scary with the pandemic,” she notes. “The hospital said I can’t go in and support him — I’m like ‘what are you talking about? I’m his wife! I want to be there. I was very upset.”
At home, Krentcil and her children are taking extra precautions: “We come home, change clothes, and put them right in the wash,” she says. “We’re very cautious.”