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New Data Reveals 29 Percent of White High School Girls Go to Tanning Beds

Update Date: Aug 20, 2013 10:03 AM EDT

In recent years, the tanning bed has developed a bad reputation for being a huge contributor to skin cancer. Due to recent studies, researchers have continuously reported that tanning beds are unsafe because the lights used in these machines increase the risk of skin cancer. Despite the warnings against tanning beds, new data reveal that around one-third of high school white girls still cannot resist having tanned skin. This group of young females continues to expose their skin to deadly rays as they go to tanning beds to achieve their desired tan.

"The reason tanning turns your skin brown is that it becomes damaged by ultraviolet radiation. This is true regardless of whether those UV rays come directly from the sun or from an artificial source, like a tanning bed or sunlamp. Both short-wavelength UVB and the relatively longer-wavelength UVA damage the DNA in skin cells, increasing the risk of malignant melanoma and squamous and basal cell carcinomas," the American Academy of Dermatology wrote.

In the latest study, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculated new data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the 2010 National Health Interview Survey regarding tanning beds. The CDC carried out both surveys. They reported that 29.3 percent of white high school girls used tanning beds at least once a year. 16.7 percent of these girls got their tans from a tanning bed frequently, which equated to at least 10 times over the span of 12-months. For white women under 35-years-old, 24.9 percent of them used tanning beds at least once a year and 15 percent of them used tanning beds frequently.

"Indoor tanning is widespread among non-Hispanic white female high school students and adults ages 18 to 34 years, and the frequent use of indoor tanning is common," the researchers wrote according to the LA Times. "This widespread use is of great concern given the elevated risk of skin cancer among younger users and frequent users."

From previous CDC reports, the agency estimated that people who use indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma from 59 percent to 75 percent. For people who start using indoor tanning beds before turning 25, their risk factor increases from 40 percent to 102 percent. Not only has the CDC constantly reminded people that tanning beds are dangerous, other agencies have as well. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers about the potential skin cancer risk from items such as sunlamps and tanning beds. The World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that UV-emitting tanning devices are detrimental to humans because they can cause cancer. Despite all of these different agencies reporting the dangers of UV radiation, young females continue to put their lives at risk. However, even though the CDC's report focused on young females, statistics reveal that all age groups and sexes could benefit from more information regarding skin damage. 

"CDC's short letter in JAMA calls for policy action, but in doing so ignores mountains of conflicting and confounding data which support teaching sunburn prevention to people of all ages instead of targeting sun abstinence campaigns at young women. It could not be any more clear that skin cancer rates are skyrocketing in men, and particularly men over age 50, but CDC has inexplicably ignored this group. We hope CDC accepts ASA's invitation to discuss this comprehensively and constructively," commented the American Suntanning Association via email to Counsel and Heal.

According to a report from the National Cancer Institute, men are more likely to die from melanoma than women. The rate of death for men of all races is 3.9 per 100,000 men while the rate of death for women of all races is 1.7 per 100,000 women. On top of this statistic, the NCI has also reported that melanoma incidence has been increasing more rapidly in men over 50 since the 1970s than women. These numbers suggest that campaigns to educate women about the dangers of exposure to rays, whether they are from the sun or artifical sources, need to be readusted to target men as well. 

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine

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