by Alexandra Samuel
photo: Hans NelemanI'll admit it: In my younger days, I may have hit up the tanning booth a few times before prom or to get a "base tan" for Spring Break. (At least that's how we justified it.) But since I've become a health writer and learned just how dangerous indoor tanning is, I wouldn't dream of getting back in a bed. Apparently, though, lots of people still do. A new study published today in the JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that indoor tanning is widespread among white female high schoolers and young adults, with many girls going at least 10 times a year. What's up with that, ladies?
Before this study, estimates of how many young women were actually using tanning booths and beds were limited, at best. So researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at questionnaires from high school students and young adults ages 18 to 34, across the country, from 2010 and 2011.
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They found that among non-Hispanic white females, 29 percent of high-school students and 25 percent of young adults had used an indoor tanning device at least once in the last year, while 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively, had engaged in frequent tanning (at least 10 times) over the same period. Yikes!
If you're one of those girls, here's a reminder for you: Indoor tanning before age 35 raises your risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, by up to 75 percent. And every session counts: Your risk increases almost 2 percent for each tanning visit per year. It also causes wrinkles and eye damage. (And heads up, it's not just non-Latinos who are at risk.)
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The researchers aren't sure if indoor tanning rates are on the rise -- but they do know that melanoma rates are, especially among young white women. They hope that proposed legislation to increase warning labels on tanning machines, to impose a tax on tanning and to limit tanning among minors will steer young people away from beds and booths, helping to reverse that trend.
Another way to hammer the message home to young women? "Changing the social norms related to tanned skin and attractiveness," the researchers say. It's true, society does love a nice sun-kissed bikini body; we're guilty of it too. But luckily, there are much healthier ways to (and plenty of products to help you) achieve the look, and still keep cancer at bay.
What do you think: Do you still tan indoors, even though you know how dangerous it is?
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by Alexandra Samuel