Yes, indoor tanning is as dangerous as you think

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SolariumNow that most of the US is experiencing the gloom and frigid cold that comes with mid-winter, indoor tanning is especially popular. But Sabrina Tavernise s recent NYTimes article discusses the well-known hazard associated with indoor tanning and despite this, why people (especially young women) continue to tan.

Even in Florida where sunshine is abundant year-round, tanning salons are incredibly popular outnumbering McDonalds restaurants, CVS stores, or Bank of America branches. Tavernise writes, Salons with names like Eternal Summer and Tan City dot strip malls across the country, promising prettiness and, in some cases, better health, despite a growing body of evidence that links indoor tanning to skin cancer. Indeed, a review of scientific evidence published last year estimated that as many as 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the US each year are due to tanning beds, including 6,000 cases of melanoma, the deadliest form.

Many indoor tanning salons promote health benefits such as vitamin D production and reduced risk of sunburn along with psychological benefits such as feeling happier. Also, advocates of tanning salons sometimes argue that indoor tanning is less dangerous than sun tanning. However, the FDA states that sunlamps may be more dangerous than the sun because they can be used at high intensity every day of the year unlike the sun s intensity which varies by time of day, season, and cloud coverage.

Despite the risks, tanning remains a persistent problem, especially among white teenage girls. About a third of this demographic say that have used indoor tanning more than the proportion of those who have smoked cigarettes. Tavernise writes, many young women said in interviews that tanning fed a craving to be pretty, at a time in life when it is most acute. Many women in interviews also claimed they were aware of the risks but cared more about how they looked at this point in their lives.

But there is good news: recent federal data have documented a decline in the use of indoor tanning by teenage girls. This change is likely due to increasing restrictions on the use of tanning salons by minors, says AIM at melanoma, an advocacy and research group in California. More than 40 states have enacted some sort of restriction for minors since 2011, when California was the first state to adopt a ban. And according to Dr. Gery P. Guy Jr., a CDC researcher, these new regulations are having a positive impact female students in states that require a combination of parental permission or other age restrictions are 40 percent less likely to tan indoors. Hopefully, the US will see a decrease in the cases of skin cancer among young women in the upcoming years.