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Release: March 22, 2002

UI dermatology resident and medical student receive Skin Cancer Foundation grant

Spring is just around the corner and with that comes fun in the sun. However, as many people head off for spring break or the tanning salon, they may be ignoring serious cancer risks. With the help of a grant from the Skin Cancer Foundation, a University of Iowa resident and a UI medical student will research the correlation between tanning bed use and cancer and also study the attitude of primary care physicians on this topic.

William Ting, M.D., UI resident in dermatology, and Cortney Vest, a third-year UI medical student, received the Photobiology Award, a one-year $10,000 grant from the Skin Cancer Foundation. Vest accepted the grant at a reception held by the foundation Feb. 23 in New Orleans.

Ting became interested in tanning bed use after seeing the prevalence of skin cancers among his patients. He expressed concerns over the popularity of tanning beds, the risks involved and how people ignore those risks.

"My interest derived mostly from my patient care," Ting said. "I learned that there is a group of patients who, no matter how terrible tanning bed exposure is, they will still resort to using it."

Vest and Ting applied for the grant after collecting 433 surveys at a UI Health Care skin cancer screening event sponsored last May by the UI department of dermatology. The surveys showed widespread tanning bed exposure. In addition, 41 percent of those surveyed said they were never informed of potential risks.

"One of the foremost goals of our research is to contribute to the development of a more effective public health strategy that influences behavioral change towards the development of skin cancer," Vest said.

In particular, the study found that more than 70 percent of women under age 34 had attended a tanning bed session at least once in their lifetime. The study also showed that as woman age, they are less likely to use tanning beds. However, the study found an interesting bimodal distribution for men, Ting said, in that men had two peaks for tanning bed use -- under the age of 23 and between the ages of 45 and 49.

Ting and Vest are now doing surveys of patients, reviewing the patients' medical records to see if there are greater risks of skin cancers with increased tanning exposure and also surveying primary care physicians to see how much emphasis they are placing on patient education regarding damaging ultraviolet light exposure.

Ting hopes the data will help regulate the tanning bed industry and make sure people understand the risks. Ting and Vest will present the preliminary results of their research at the Society for Investigative Dermatology Meeting, May 15 – 19 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Ting initially invited Vest to work on the research project after working with her during her dermatology clerkship rotation.

"Cortney seemed eager and enthusiastic," Ting said. "She has proven herself to be an exceptional team player and researcher."

After receiving a grant even before completing medical school, Vest has no plans to slow down.

"I am extremely honored to be awarded this research grant, and I look forward to working on this research project with Dr. Ting," she said. "I am excited about contributing to the understanding of the relationship between tanning bed exposure and the development of skin cancer.

"This experience has furthered my interest in a career in dermatology, and I feel privileged to have had these rewarding research opportunities," Vest added.

Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation at Information on skin cancer also is available at, the Web site of the UI Department of Dermatology.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine at the UI and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at