Despite evidence linking tanning bed use to cancer, people are still flocking to tanning beds, a new study finds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored the study, which found that while melanoma (skin cancer) rates increase three percent every year for women aged 15- 39, 27 percent of white teen girls still tan frequently. Melanoma, once considered an old person’s disease, is now diagnosed in 77, 000 Americans a year. Every year it kills 9,500 Americans, and the evidence linking cancer to tanning beds has never been stronger, USA Today reports.
Indoor tanning rates increase among teen girls as they age, peaking at 18. By that age about 44 percent of teen girls had used a tanning bed; 30 percent were frequent users, hitting the salon ten times during the time frame surveyed. The new study also found that in women aged 18-35 tanning was less popular, steadily decreasing with age. Preliminary research shows that the ultraviolet light used in tanning beds may have addictive properties, leading teens to continue using the beds. Perhaps more likely is that peer pressure and a desire to be pretty leads teens to the beds; they never even consider that they could be putting themselves in harm’s way.
Using a tanning bed before age 35 increases your skin cancer risk by up to 75 percent. Using a tanning bed before age 25 increases melanoma risk by up to 100 percent. Some scientists and health advocates believe that because tanning beds pose such a risk to human health that there should be campaigns to stop or prevent the use of tanning beds, particularly by teenagers, who do not necessarily understand or care about the implications of using tanning beds on their bodies. Six states– California, Vermont, Oregon, Nevada and Texas– have banned indoor tanning for minors. The Indoor Tanning Association disagrees, arguing that the message should be to promote indoor tanning for all ages and people.
Other proposals include adding warning labels to tanning beds and lamps that explain their health risk and caution users that they are not for use under age 18. Enforcement is key in this area; the CDC found that tanning salon employees would not necessarily enforce the over-18 rule and did not understand or know that there was a health risk to tanning. The Affordable Care Act has also instituted a ten percent tax on tanning services. The Indoor Tanning Association opposes the changes, saying it will put an unnecessary financial burden on salons. The CDC’s goal is to reduce the use of tanning beds by minors to 14 percent by 2020.