Dangerous Tanning Habits Persist in Young Women

Despite the now well-established dangers of indoor tanning, teenage and young adult women continue to use tanning beds at an alarming rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent survey study of more than 15,000 subjects. In the 12 months before being surveyed, the study found:

  • Over 29 percent of non-Hispanic white female high school students engaged in indoor tanning at least once, and almost 17 percent did so at least 10 times.
  • Nearly 25 percent of non-Hispanic white women ages 18 to 34 engaged in indoor tanning at least once, and over 15 percent did so at least 10 times.

These findings reinforce past research, notes California dermatologist Melanie Palm, MD, spokeswoman for The Skin Cancer Foundation. “A disproportionate number of girls and young women use tanning beds,” she says. “There’s a cultural disconnect between the risk and the desire for a ‘healthy glow.’”

The new study’s findings highlight the need for greater understanding among young women about the dangersof indoor tanning. Since physical appearance may mean more to them than long-range health effects, the study authors advise making teenagers and young adults aware that tanning causes not just skin cancer, but age spots, wrinkling, and other negative cosmetic affects. The FDA is also working to help solve the problem: in March 2013 it issued a proposal to raise the classification of tanning beds from Class 1 (low to moderate risk) devices to Class II (moderate to high risk) devices; that proposal is currently under review.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds avoid indoor tanning and take precautions in the sun by limiting outdoor time between 10 am and 4 pm, seeking the shade when outdoors, using SPF 15+ sunscreen (SPF 30+ sunscreen for extended stays outdoors), and wearing protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses. Learn more about sun protection.