Despite Mounting Evidence, High School Girls Keep Tanning


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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  • Deb Girard

    While teens for the most part feel that “it will never happen to me” we need parents to understand that any time you burn or tan that the cell DNA is impacted. There is no such thing as a safe tan. We don’t allows teens to buy cigarettes because tobacco is a known carcinogen then why do we allow minors in tanning beds? We could reduce the risk of melanoma by teaching our kids to love the skin they have. The Melanoma Foundation New England provides “Your Skin is In”, a program targeting teens and young adults building awareness about the dangers of tanning , indoors and out. Take the the No Tanning pledge at

  • Shelly

    You’re surely aware of all of the information out there clearly explaining why tanning salons are absolutely, unquestionably not a good idea?
    YOU certainly aren’t aware of the information as to why tanning salons ARE a good idea.
    My doctor recommended tanning for me to bring up my dangerously low Vitamin D level of 11ng/ml. I am very fair skined and would burn anytime I was in the sun for more than 10 minutes even with sunscreen on. I worked with a professional salon to conservatively build my UV exposure. I tanned for a few minutes every 2-3 days and gradually increased the time. The result was a Vitamin D blood level of 75ng/ml in a few months without supplements. The unintended benefit? I can spend more than an hour outdoors without burning because I have a base tan. I am still fair skine and to look at me you wouldn’t know I am tan. I can’t even tell if it weren’t for the fact that I have tan lines to guage my progress.
    Professional salons have safety measures in place to avoid overexposure and prevent sunburn. That is when the danger comes into play. To suggest that tanning salons are a bad idea shows that you have no idea how they work. They limit how long and how often you tan based on your skin type. It isn’t just some random process. For people like me, it is a great option to have a controlled environment to get UV exposure without sunburn. I now tan once a week for 5 minutes and I maintain a 63ng/ml Vitamin D level after more than a year of tanning.
    My son used tanning to clear up his severe acne. He had better success with UV exposure to clear his skin than any other method he tried. My brother tans to keep his psoriasis under control. There are good reasons to tan as long as it is done in moderation. You will find that professional salons are all about moderation. I know of people that have sunbeds in thier basements, they can tan as long and often as they want. That is not safe. Misuse of sunbeds is dangerous and professional salons would lose business if they were irresponsible about the use of their equipment. So tell me how salons are unquestionably a bad idea?

  • pigeonnumber3

    Because you give them the money and drive them to the salon?