ó In the quest to look "better, cuter, hotter," a
troubling number of teenage girls in Minnesota are exposing
themselves to harmful levels of ultraviolet light with tanning
beds and increasing their risks of skin cancer.
third of white 11th-grade Minnesota girls have tanned indoors
in the past year, according to a state survey released
Tuesday, and more than half of them used sun beds, sunlamps or
tanning booths at least 10 times in a recent 12-month period.
results were sobering to public health officials and
dermatologists, who have struggled to find a message as
persuasive to teens as the desire to achieve mythic beauty or
look bronzed in prom photos.
tanning beds deliver 10 to 15 times more ultraviolet radiation
than natural sunlight and increase risks of developing
melanoma by at least 59 percent, according to studies.
teens assume the consequences will strike other people or much
later in life.
so," said Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith, a dermatologist and
president of the Minnesota Medical Association. "Iím
seeing 20-year olds with melanoma, and Iím seeing 30-year
olds die of the disease."
the first year that tanning bed usage by teens was included in
the Minnesota Student Survey, which is compiled every three
years by the state Health and Education departments. It
assesses everything from how much milk and vegetables students
consume, to the hours they spend texting, to the number of
times they contemplate suicide or abuse drugs.
Cuter? Hotter? I donít know what the motivation is" for
tanning, Smith said. "Why do teenagers do anything? They
drive too fast. Their brains arenít fully developed Ö
enough to make decisions that will affect them for the rest of
melanoma is treatable if found early ó often when people
notice changes in the shapes, sizes or colors of moles on
their bodies ó it is the deadliest form of skin cancer when
discovered late. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic recently
reported that the melanoma risk in women younger than 40 is
now eight times greater than it was in the 1970s, before the
growth in tanning salons, and that the risk in women ages 40
to 60 is now 24 times greater.
said a telltale sign of the link to tanning is the number of
"funny looking moles and brown spots where typically the
sun doesnít shine," such as on breasts or buttocks
exposed during tanning.
Virginia-based Indoor Tanning Association, which represents
indoor tanning manufacturers, distributors, and facility
owners, said Tuesday there is a "growing body of science
produced by independent medical professionals that
demonstrates the many health benefits of regular moderate
exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or from a
be true that tanning beds can expose people to healthy vitamin
D and give pick-me-ups to people depressed by long, gray
winters, said Dr. Jerry Brewer, the Mayo dermatologist who led
recent studies on increased cancer rates.
vitamin D comes in cheap supplements, and there are other ways
to weather the winter, he said. "Compared to having a
cancer that could kill you, itís just a no-brainer what you
message might be getting through, but not until after the teen
years. Results of a similar national survey, released last
summer, showed high rates of tanning bed usage started to
decline when women reached their twenties.
Helland of Fargo, N.D., started tanning in high school as a
way to look good for prom or homecoming. Erin Haugen of
Appleton, Minn., said it was the thing to do in her teens.
looking at magazines, youíre looking at these beautiful
women, and they are usually tan," Haugen said.
women, both 25, shared the same experience of discovering
odd-shaped lumps on their skin and having surgeries after they
were diagnosed with melanoma.
tanning phenomenon is largely a female one. Among white
11th-grade boys in Minnesota, only one in 20 used a tanning
bed at any time in the past year, according to the student
lawmakers have begun confronting the problem; California, for
example, bans tanning bed use by minors. In Minnesota,
in-person parental permission is needed for anyone under 16
years old to use a commercially operated tanning bed. The
state Health Department is also promoting a "UVideo
Challenge," calling on teens to create short videos about
the dangers of tanning.
hopes word will get out so she has fewer 20-year-olds
regretting their life choices as teens. She lost a 30-year-old
patient last year.
I could have changed one thing in my life," Smith
recalled the patient saying. "I wouldnít have ó and
then she used an expletive ó gone to the tanning