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Many teens who tan know the cancer risks but do it anyway, survey finds

May 18, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Young women know that indoor tanning raises the risk of skin cancer, yet most agree a bronzed body looks more attractive, according to a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Young women know that indoor tanning raises the risk of skin cancer, yet… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Some teen girls and young women may not need a lesson in the cancer risks of indoor tanning — they apparently already know them.

A new online survey by the American Academy of Dermatology found that most females (86%) who reported using an indoor tanning bed in the last year knew it could increase the risk of skin cancer. And 48% of the indoor tanners knew someone with skin cancer or someone who’d had it.

But to them, there are compelling cosmetic reasons to do it anyway. Most of the young women (66%), especially the indoor tanners (87%), thought people looked better with a bronzed body, according to the survey of more than 3,800 white non-Hispanic females, ages 14 to 22.

Still they tan, even though tanning can cause premature wrinkles — something that 42% of indoor tanners said they were concerned about, compared with 28% of non-indoor tanners.

As the president of the academy, Dr. Ronald Moy, interpreted the results in a statement

“Our survey confirms that teens are more concerned with their current looks than their future health, even though they realize that skin cancer is a risk factor of their behavior. If this behavior trend continues and young women’s attitudes toward tanning do not change, future generations will develop more skin cancers earlier in life and the consequences can be fatal.”

But not all young women make such choices. Not all of the respondents, or even most, had recently climbed into a tanning bed. Previous results announced by the academy found that 32% of respondents — 40% of 18- to 22-year-olds and 22% of those 14 to 17 — had tanned indoors in the last year. Another recent study found that 17% of girls 14 to 17 had tanned indoors in the last year.

But the cancer risk for these women — and anyone else eager to adopt the GTL (gym, tan, laundry) lifestyle as seen on "Jersey Shore" — is real. Perhaps focusing on wrinkles would be more effective.

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