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Teen Health

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Teenage Girls Get Tans Despite Cancer Risk

Survey Shows Tanning Beds and Outdoor Sunbathing Remain Popular Among Teens
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 2, 2011 -- Large numbers of  teenage girls are still using tanning beds or sunbathing outdoors despite repeated warnings from doctors that too much exposure to ultraviolet light can lead to skin cancer, a new survey shows.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s poll of about 3,800 white girls and women between 14 and 22 suggests that many thousands are trying to get tans in the sun or turning to tanning booths, or doing both.

Among key findings of the survey:

  • 32% of respondents had used a tanning bed in the past year; of those, one-fourth used a tanning bed at least once weekly.
  • 81% of respondents had tanned outdoors either frequently or occasionally in the past year.
  • 42% of indoor tanners are more concerned about wrinkles than non-indoor tanners; 28.4% of non-indoor tanners expressed such worries.
  • 65.5% of respondents said they think people look more attractive with a tan; 87.3% of indoor tanners gave that answer.
  • Indoor tanners were four times as likely to say their mothers used a tanning bed, compared to outdoor tanners.

Education About Risks of Tanning

“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,” dermatologist Ronald L. Moy, MD, FAAD, says in a news release.

Moy, who is president of the American Academy of Dermatology, also says that 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.”

He says that in his practice in California, he has had patients -- young women with a history of using tanning beds -- who have died from melanoma.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer both have said ultraviolet or UV radiation from the sun and artificial light sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps are carcinogenic.

The news release from the American Academy of Dermatology says indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of melanoma by 75%.

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