​Witney Carson Reveals Previous Cancer Diagnosis

The "Dancing with the Stars" professional was successfully treated for melanoma.

Witney Carson, 22, always dreamed of being a dancer. Her childhood dreams started coming true when she appeared on the reality show competition "So You Think You Can Dance." From there, she became a troupe dancer on "Dancing with the Stars" and was promoted to the position of a professional dancer for Season 18 of "DWTS."

But just before she was to start, she noticed a small mole on her left foot. Her mother suggested that she get it checked out, and was shocked when the doctor told her that it was melanoma. What’s more, she was told that if she did not have surgery right away, she would likely also have to undergo chemotherapy.

In an interview on "The Doctors," Witney revealed how devastating this news was:

"Your feet are everything when you’re a dancer. I didn’t know if I would ever dance again."

Witney underwent a four-hour surgery to remove the cancer from her foot, as well as the removal of three lymph nodes in her hip. She was instructed not to walk on her foot for six weeks. Afraid of ruining her dancing career, Witney kept quiet about her surgery and diagnosis.

"My first day back as a pro I was rehearsing and I looked down at my foot and there was blood everywhere," she told "The Doctors." "The scar had completely ripped open. I pushed it to the limit too soon."

She and her Season 19 partner Alfonso Ribeiro won the coveted "Mirror Ball Trophy" in November 2014.

"I feel so grateful that I’m here alive, healthy and that I have both of my feet so that I can dance for as long as I can."

Is Tanning Addictive?

One of the most significant risk factors for developing melanoma is prolonged exposure to sunlight, whether natural light or or the artificial sunlight in tanning salons.

As Witney Carson revealed in her interview with "The Doctors":

"When you're dancing, you want to look good, you want to look tan, so I did go to the tanning beds probably three times a week."

Even though tanning can cause premature aging, melanoma, and other types of skin cancer, millions of people still feel compelled to tan.  Could tanning be addictive?

Researchers are finding increasing evidence that, for some, tanning may truly be an addiction, similar to drug or alcohol addiction. In 2006, researchers from Wake Forest University showed that endorphins (chemicals in the brain that act as like opiate pain relievers) are produced by exposure to UV light (either through sun or tanning booth exposure).

According to Dr. Steven Feldman, co-author of the research, "This might explain why some people appear to be hooked on sunbathing and why frequent users of tanning beds say they experience a positive mood change or are more relaxed after a session." What was even more surprising was that when they blocked the UV light (without the participants knowing it was being blocked), some people actually exhibited withdrawal symptoms-—nausea and jitteriness.

Indoor tanning is no safer than outdoor tanning. Although indoor tanning devices operate on a timer, the exposure to UV rays can vary based on the age and type of light bulbs. Indoor tanning is designed to give you high levels of UV radiation in a short time. You can get a burn from tanning indoors, and even a tan indicates damage to your skin.

Studies have shown consistently that indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of getting skin cancer, including melanoma:

A study published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reconfirmed the association between indoor tanning and melanoma, and also found that newer tanning beds were not safer than older models.

A 2014 study published in JAMA Dermatology estimated that more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer may be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year—causing 245,000 basal cell carcinomas, 168,000 squamous cell carcinomas, and 6,000 melanomas.

A 2010 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, in the United States found that the risk of getting melanoma increased the more years, hours, or sessions spent indoor tanning.

Also concerning is the data concerning teen usage of indoor tanning. According to the data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, indoor tanning is being used by:

  • 13 percent of all high school students
  • 20 percent of high school girls
  • 27 percent of girls in the 12th grade
  • 31 percent of white high school girls

The good news is that skin cancer is a highly-preventable disease. Australian actor, singer, and producer Hugh Jackman, 47, has had skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) twice. His advice:

"PLEASE! PLEASE! WEAR SUNSCREEN!"

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Celebrity Diagnosis: Teachable Moments in Cancer is produced by Celebrity Diagnosis LLC to raise awareness and knowledge of health and medical issues. The information on the subjects of these articles is derived from public news sources. Celebrity Diagnosis LLC and its employees are not involved in the care of any of the subjects nor do they have access to, or knowledge of, the subjects' medical records or personal health information. Celebrity Diagnosis LLC is solely responsible for the contents of these articles.​​

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