Healthy Living

Are Teens 'Dying for a Tan'?

A new survey shows that teenage girls prefer tanning beds and outdoor sunbathing despite repeated warnings that too much exposure may lead to skin cancer. A survey of 3,800 Caucasian girls and women between the age of 14 and 22-years-old, conducted by The American Academy of Dermatology, shows that thousands prefer to sunbathe or go to tanning booths to get a tan.

The results of the poll show that:

  • About 32% of the participants used tanning beds for tanning, and one-fourth use them once a week.
  • About 81% of the participants had sunbathed frequently or occasionally in the last year.
  • 42% of the participants who opted for indoor tanning were worried about wrinkles, while only 28.4% of the girls who did outdoor tanning were.
  • 65.5% of the participants felt that people are more attractive with a tan.
  • Girls who indoor tan were more likely to say that their mothers used a tanning bed when compared to those who had tanned outdoors.
  • Girls between the ages of 18-years-old and 22-years-old were more likely to use indoor tanning beds, compared to girls who were between the ages of 14-years-old and 17-years-old.
skin cancer

“This shows that young women should be educated and made aware of the dangers and risks of tanning, like the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma,” says dermatologist Ronald L. Moy, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology. The rate of skin cancer is increasing in females between the ages of 15-years-old and 29-years-old, when compared to men of the same age group. “Most of the women who develop skin cancer have it on their torso, which is the result of indoor tanning,” adds Moy.

According to The Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer, ultraviolet radiations from the sun and from artificial sources, like tanning beds and sun lamps, are carcinogenic. Indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma by 75%, reports the American Academy of Dermatology.

A safe alternative to outdoor tanning and tanning beds is the use of spray tans, but many of the participants did not prefer to use them. Moy says that, despite ultraviolet radiation being the most direct source of skin cancer, many girls prefer to go to tanning beds or outdoor tanning every year. There is an average of 14 tanning salons per city, according to a recent survey of 116 U.S. cities. Moy is worried that this habit will increase the incidence of melanoma and lead to more untimely deaths due to cancer. Unless there is a change in this trend, approximately one in five Americans may develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Deaths due to melanoma account for about 75% of skin cancer deaths. The incidence of this cancer has also been increasing in the last 30 years, especially among young Caucasian women.