Despite Mounting Evidence, High School Girls Keep Tanning

(valerieyermal/flickr)

You’re surely aware of all of the information out there clearly explaining why tanning salons are absolutely, unquestionably not a good idea?

Evidently, young America has yet to get the memo.

As a new report from JAMA Internal Medicine found:

Among non-Hispanic white female high school students, 29.3% engaged in indoor tanning and 16.7% engaged in frequent indoor tanning during the previous 12 months. The prevalence of indoor tanning and frequent indoor tanning increased with age.

These numbers  – about 1/3 of high schoolers tanning within the past year — are surprisingly static. A study done by the CDC in 2010 also found about a third of young white women reported indoor tanning.

What’s going amiss? I talked to Emily Colson, a high school senior in South Carolina whose experience closely mirrors the study’s findings. She first started using tanning beds as a freshman, relying on them for occasions with high expectations, like prom and the first week of summer. “I don’t like being pale or being pasty – I think I look a lot better when I’m tanner,” she said.

When asked whether she was concerned about health risks, the three-times-weekly tanner said she wasn’t. Why not? “I mean, I don’t go every day.”

Daily or not, the sessions have a way of adding up. As Alan Geller of the Harvard School of Public Health told CommonHealth earlier:

“Most projections will say that about 40 uses [of a tanning bed] during one’s lifetime elevates one’s risk of melanoma about 55%,” he said. “So if you do the math, it means basically a 1-1/2 % extra risk for melanoma for each time you use it.”

Readers, why do you, or your daughters, continue to frequent tanning salons despite all the risks? Is it an addiction? Or does the long-term data not trump the immediate tan? Please let us know.

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