Study looks at indoor tanning among teens

September 08, 2003

A new study looking at the indoor tanning behavior of white American teens shows that almost 37 percent of girls have used an indoor tanning facility at least once and almost 30 percent of girls report using a tanning booth three or more times. The percentage of girls using tanning booths three or more times increased with age, from 11.2 percent of the 13- to 14-year-olds to 47 percent of 18- to 19-year-olds. The study also found that teens who tanned easily were more likely to use indoor tanning facilities than poor tanners. Girls who participated in routine physical activity were less likely to use tanning booths. The study appears in the September 2003 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Teenage boys reported less use of tanning booths: a little more than 11 percent used a tanning booth at least once and 6.9 percent went to a tanning booth three or more times.

The study also found a higher percentage of indoor tanners among teens from the Midwest and South, from rural areas, and among dieters, as well as among teens reporting recent use of alcohol and tobacco. Information for the study came from a 1996 survey of more than 6,900 teens.

Lead author Catherine A. Demko, Ph.D., a research associate at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland, said, "The popularity of indoor tanning among adolescents has been previously reported, but the extent of its use had not been measured on a large, representative sample of U.S. teens. In conjunction with other studies, these results demonstrate that indoor tanning among white teenagers is significant, with 30 percent to 40 percent of 16- to 18- year-old white females using tanning booths repeatedly."

Demko added, "Repeated exposure to UV rays, such as those absorbed during indoor tanning, can cause skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. The majority of teens do not have an appreciation of the risk of skin cancers, scars from surgeries to try and remove them, mottled pigmentation, and sagging, wrinkled skin. The predominant UV-A component of indoor tanning lights is a major culprit in photoaging because it penetrates the skin layers more deeply and causes oxidative and DNA damage. Prevention messages are under development to emphasize the appearance-related problems of UV overexposure and present alternatives to tanning using UV rays to enhance appearance."
Other authors on the study are Elaine A. Borawski, Ph.D., Sara M. Debanne, Ph.D., Kevin D. Cooper, M.D., and Kurt C. Stange, M.D., Ph.D., all with Case and University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Case Western Reserve University

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