Mind and Body

Many Girls, Young Women Continue to Use Tanning Beds

The dangers of indoor and outdoor tanning have been hammered home over and over again by health experts, but that hasn’t made a difference to a large percentage of girls and young women who continue to worship the sun in order to get that sought after "glow."

In a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology, 32 percent of respondents admitted using a tanning bed in the past year, and of those respondents, 25 percent used a tanning bed at least weekly. Even more concerning is the fact that 81 percent off all of the women surveyed said they had tanned outdoors either frequently or occasionally in the past year.

The survey involved more than 3,800 white non-Hispanic females ages 14 to 22.

"Our survey underscores the importance of educating young women about the very real risks of tanning, as melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is increasing faster in females 15 to 29 years old than in males of the same age group," Dr. Ronald L. Moy, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, said in a news release. "In fact, most young women with melanoma are developing it on their torso, which may be the result of high-risk tanning behaviors such as indoor tanning. In my practice, I have had patients – young women with a history using tanning beds – who have died from melanoma."

Indoor tanning is so risky that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with the World Health Organization have “declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial light sources as a known carcinogen,” according to the report, and numerous studies show indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of melanoma by as much 75 percent.

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and is the leading cause of death from skin disease. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be more than 68,000 new cases of melanoma this year, resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths.

"Exposure to UV radiation is the leading risk factor for skin cancer, yet – despite this knowledge – droves of teens and young women are flocking to tanning bed facilities and beaches or pools to tan every year," said Moy. "The challenge is that teens have access to indoor tanning salons on almost every corner. A recent survey of 116 U.S. cities found an average of 42 tanning salons per city, which means tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbucks or McDonald’s. We are very concerned that this tanning behavior will lead to a continued increase in the incidence of skin cancer in young people and, ultimately, more untimely deaths from this devastating disease."

At current rates, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths resulting from melanoma. 

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