More Teens Turning Their Backs on Tanning Beds

FRIDAY, March 3, 2017 (HealthDay News) — The number of U.S. teens who use indoor tanning has dropped by half in recent years, a new government study reveals.

Only about 7 percent of high school students said they used indoor tanning in 2015, down from almost 16 percent of students in 2009, according to results from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.

But that still leaves more than 1 million teens putting themselves at increased risk of skin cancer, including the most severe form, melanoma, by going to a tanning salon, said study lead author Gery Guy Jr.

Worse, their use of indoor tanning appears to give them a false sense of security when they step outdoors into real sunlight, said Guy, a health economist with the CDC’s division of cancer prevention and control.

“We also found that among the 1.2 million high school students who are continuing to indoor tan, 82 percent of them experienced a sunburn in the past year,” Guy said. That increases the danger, he added.

Just one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double your lifetime risk of melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Teens likely believe the myth that indoor tanning provides a “base tan” that will protect them against sunburn, Guy said.

“There is no base tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin,” Guy said. “Individuals may think a base tan will protect them, when in reality it doesn’t.”

The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey of thousands of high school students focuses on risky behaviors that could pose a hazard to kids’ health and safety.

As part of the survey, teens were asked how often they’d used an indoor tanning device (such as sunlamp, sunbed or tanning booth) during the previous 12 months. They were also asked how many times they’d been sunburned.

Indoor tanning is most popular among white girls. But even that group experienced a large decrease in trips to the tanning salon — dropping from more than 37 percent in 2009 to just over 15 percent in 2015, the findings showed.

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