If you are like many Americans, you may frequent a tanning salon during the fall and winter months as a way of maintaining your summer complexion without access to warm, sunny beaches. Or, perhaps you typically visit the tanning salons during the mid spring months to establish your base tan prior to the upcoming hot summer months. The more important question to ask is why is it that so many individuals tan anyway? Whether it is routinely tanning at a salon, in your backyard, or at the beach, literally millions of people tan each and every year.
In both cases, indoor tanning salons and outdoor tanning will expose the skin to both UVA and UVB rays of light, albeit at different ratios. While there are health and wellness benefits related to exposing the skin to UVA and UVB rays of light, as with virtually everything in life, moderation is the key.
The Risks of Regular Indoor Tanning, Alarming Figures, Says Study
A new study is showing that young women in their teens and early 20′s tan indoors despite understanding the known indoor tanning risks associated with the activity, chief of which is skin cancer.
The study examined the tanning habits and health knowledge of 3,800 white females ranging in age from 14 to 22, all of whom utilized tanning beds on a regular basis. According to the survey, 86% of these individuals continued to use tanning beds while fully understanding that doing so would increase their risk of skin cancer.
Roughly 87% of the women believed that having a tan would make them appear more attractive, while 66% of those who abstain from indoor tanning felt the same.
Prioritizing Appearance Over Long-Term Health?
The study was conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Ronald Moy, the president of that organization, described the propensity of young women to participate in indoor tanning as “absurd,” since they’re accelerating their rate of aging and drastically increasing their risk of acquiring melanoma, all in the name of short-term cosmetic improvements that one-third of the population don’t even recognize.
Melanoma is an extremely deadly form of skin cancer, claiming approximately 8,700 American lives per year. The National Cancer Institute states that melanoma death rates increased by 5% from 1991 until 2005, despite the fact that overall cancer rates dropped by 11% for women and 19% for men during that same timeframe.
A “Sense of Invincibility”
Dr. Moy believes that the use of tanning beds by teens who understand the indoor tanning risks may be chalked up to the sense of “invincibility” that young people often report. It’s widely held that this same sense explains other potentially destructive behaviors on the part of teens, ranging from speeding and texting while driving to binge drinking and smoking.
This notion is backed by the fact that roughly half of those who tanned indoors knew someone with skin cancer, or who had skin cancer in the past.
According to Moy, the study confirms that many teens prioritize their looks over their long-term health, despite knowing that they could eventually develop cancer as a direct result of their behavior. He said that if this behavior isn’t curbed, cancer rates among future generations could increase.
Other Statistics Regarding Tanning Bed Use
Examining a few other statistics regarding those who utilize indoor tanning beds may help us understand why young people are apparently drawn to it. Among those who tan indoors:
65% have someone in their family who indoor tans as well.
94% have parents who are aware of their tanning habits.
49% report experiencing peer pressure to indoor tan.
96% have friends who tan indoors as well.
And, most alarmingly…
Using tanning beds increases your risk of acquiring melanoma by 75%.
Indoor Tanning Risks: The Bottom Line
Using indoor tanning beds, especially on a frequent basis, significantly increases your risk of acquiring skin cancer. A recent study indicates that young women continue to tan despite understanding these indoor tanning risks, even when they personally know another individual with skin cancer. For your own safety, it’s best to avoid tanning beds. If you’re the parent of a teenager or pre-teen, tell them the importance of doing the same.