One of the most popular trends among teens and young adults at the moment is indoor tanning, which unfortunately poses many hidden risks. Many teens, especially girls under the age of 18, feel that the golden glow of tanned skin enhances their appearance. As teenagers are particularly inclined to put great importance on their own body image, tanning has become increasingly targeted towards this age group. Now, up to 40% of adolescent girls use indoor tanning salons, especially as they have become increasingly accessible and affordable. The popularity is in part also because indoor tanning is much faster than sunning outside, due to UV exposure 10 to 15 times higher than normal, and the results are longer lasting. Unfortunately, few teens are aware of the damaging and permanent side effects of tanning.
A recent study published in a journal sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics points out the correlation between indoor tanning and the development of skin cancer in young people. Melanoma, a highly deadly form of skin cancer, has increased dramatically in the last twenty years, and non-melanoma forms of skin cancers are also increasing significantly, in part due to the growing prevalence of indoor tanning and intense outdoor tanning. Tanning leads to skin cancer through the damaging permanent effects of highly concentrated UV rays on the DNA of skin cells. While skin cancer is the most life-threatening side effect of tanning beds, extensive sunburn, skin aging, and eye damage can also be caused by indoor tanning…and those are just the negative effects we know about.
Finally, new research indicates that tanning addictions are becoming more widespread and are legitimate mental health issues. Yet, in spite of all of these risks, teens continue to tan. So, as parents, how are we to curb indoor tanning usage? The government has begun to look at instituting laws to ban underage tanning, but ultimately, parents are responsible for their teens. Before your teen tans, make sure they fully understand all the risks associated with tanning, and encourage them to “be comfortable in the skin they’re in.” No sun-kissed golden glow is worth the risk of developing a life threatening skin cancer. Parents have enormous influence over their children’s choices, and talking through the health risks with your children early on and frequently can have a great effect on their decision to tan. Parents have powers that they often don’t realize that they have…Use them! Also, studies show that young girls who tan often have mothers or caregivers who also tan. Setting a positive example by limiting your own tanning will perhaps lessen the pressure on your teens to follow this unhealthy trend. Ultimately, simply engaging in a family conversation about tanning will spread awareness about the risks and help teens understand the consequences of their decision. More often than not, when you treat a teen like an adult, they will act like an adult. Try it and see.
I would encourage all interested readers to take a look at this article. : http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/12/peds.2012-2404.full.pdf+html. Click and read.
Comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com. Maybe even share this article with some teens you know. Until next time.
Article written by Keri Register and Dr. Paul Smolen