Samantha Guild, A Woman With Many Hats

When Samantha Guild was diagnosed with Stage I melanoma at the age of 27, she wasn’t concerned. No one dies of melanoma, she thought, in what would turn out to be a terrible—and terribly incorrect—foretelling of the future.  She had her melanoma removed by a local dermatologist and moved on with her life as a young attorney in Sacramento, California.

About three years later, in 2003, Samantha’s sister Charlie was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma.  Her prognosis was poor, and nine months later, Charlie passed away.  Sam simultaneously mourned her sister and realized how lucky she was to find her own melanoma at such an early stage.

After Charlie’s death, Samantha’s mother Valerie Guild started a foundation in Charlie’s memory (now AIM at Melanoma) and asked Sam to work for the foundation.  The decision was easy: Samantha left a promising career in law to help others who have been diagnosed with melanoma themselves or who have lost a loved one to the disease. Sam, of course, had first-hand experience with both.

One of the first battles Sam took on—with gusto—was against the indoor tanning industry, a fight her mother had begun by contacting legislators and encouraging them to pass legislation banning minors from tanning devices.  In 2005, nearly 30 million people tanned indoors in the U.S. annually, including 2.3 million adolescents.  This tanning rate would eventually result in thousands of preventable melanoma cases and the status of melanoma as the third leading cancer of women aged 20-39 and the second most common cancer in men in that same age group.  Sam’s goals?  Get every state in the U.S. to ban indoor tanning for minors.  And publicize the dangers of indoor tanning to adults, in order to curb their use, too.

Sam used her legal background to escalate the campaign around the nation.  She combined grassroots efforts, knowledge of indoor tanning legislation, and the medical community’s in-depth scientific data on the link between tanning devices and melanoma to convince many people that laws were necessary to save lives.

It worked.

In October 2011, AIM at Melanoma led the effort for California to become the first state to sign an under 18 indoor tanning ban into law.

And today, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to ban minors under 18 from tanning devices.  Of these, fifteen have complete under 18 bans, and two have under 18 bans that allow for prescription exception, an exception AIM does not encourage.  Several states have passed bans with lower age limits.

But there is still work to do.  More than half the states in our country still permit teens to use indoor tanning devices, and Sam intends to push for under 18 bans throughout the country until it’s outlawed everywhere.

Interested in helping this effort?  Over the next several months, Sam is looking to create coalitions in various states to educate and to help pass legislation.  Coalitions like this that Sam created in Texas and California, for example, helped spearhead their under 18 bans—working together is key.

Join Sam and AIM at Melanoma in the fight!


Samantha Guild
Director of Education, Public Policy, and Advocacy

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