2.3 million teens visit tanning salons in the U.S. every year.
San Diego State University's ongoing research about indoor tanning has revealed a surprising new statistic. In the latest study, public health researcher Joni Mayer and her team found that in 2006, in the largest U.S. cities the number of indoor tanning salons was higher than that of Starbucks or McDonalds. That's right, there were more tanning salons than Starbucks!
"Even though it has been linked to both melanoma and squamous cell cancer, U.S. adolescents and young adults continue to use indoor tanning at high rates," said Joni Mayer, lead researcher for the Correlates of Indoor Tanning in Youth (CITY 100) project, whose ongoing research seeks to learn more about the factors that influence teens and young adults to use indoor tanning.
According to a Swedish study, the younger you are when you start indoor tanning, the greater your risk of melanoma. A review of seven studies revealed that your risk of melanoma increases by 75% if you're exposed to tanning beds before the age of 35. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for teens to be banned from indoor tanning due to the dangers, only half of the states in the U.S. regulate tanning bed use by teens.
"The sun produces two kinds of light: visible and ultraviolet (UV)," explains pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson. "It is the UV light that makes us tan or burn. When tanning beds were first coming into popularity, some people said that they were safer than the sun. These folks argued that if you tanned yourself on a tanning bed before going into the sun, you would be less likely to burn. Because sun cancers are highly correlated with burns, especially blistering burns, tanning beds were supposed to 'protect' you."
"But as it turns out," Dr. Cara continues, "tanning beds are probably no safer than the sun. Three studies were published last year concluding that 'there is no such thing as a safe tan.' Tanning beds use UV light and this is known to cause skin cancer."
Dr. Cara's bottom line: "Now, more than ever, people need to understand the risks of UV exposure," she says. "When you go out in the sun, you should be using sunscreen. And in
my opinion, parents should keep their kids out of tanning salons."
Does your teen use a tanning bed?