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May 6, 2011 at 1:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Dangers for Teens Who Tan

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

Is your teen just getting a tan when she climbs into a tanning bed, or is she also opening the door for skin cancer? Studies show that, in the search for glamour and a little bit of color, teenagers are getting much more than just a nice golden glow from their tanning bed experiences. The incidents of adult skin cancers have continued to climb over the past several decades but today, according to the Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, what used to be an uncommon occurrence melanoma in teenagers and adolescents  has also begun to climb. According to Dr. Lawrence Mark with the Indiana University School of Medicine the toll for melanoma caused deaths last year is at an all time high of 8,700, with another 63,130 new cases diagnosed.

Tanning Bed Dangers

Every day more than one million individuals use salon tanning beds, and many of the clients are underage teens and adolescents. And though some tanning salon owners argue that tanning beds are safe, the World Health Organization (WHO) disagrees. In fact, WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer recently placed ultraviolet radiation-emitting beds on their carcinogenic to humans list. According to WHO assistant Direction-General, Dr. Kerstin Leitner, There has been mounting concern over the past several years that people and in particular, teenagers, are using sun beds excessively to acquire tans which are seen as socially desirable. However, the consequence of this sun bed usage has been a precipitous rise in the number of skin cancer cases. Leitner adds that excessive exposure to UV rays and not taking the proper precautions when exposed to UV rays either from tanning beds or from the sun leads to malignant melanomas and other types of cancer. In about 90 percent of the tanning salons in the United States, children under the age of 14 cannot use a tanning bed without a prescription and teenagers from 14 to 17 cannot use a tanning bed without a parent's authorization. Additionally, 31 states already have laws governing adolescents and teens and tanning bed and some states, like Illinois and Ohio, are hoping to pass laws that forbid the use of tanning beds altogether for anyone under the age of 18.

Sun Tanning

Any type of UV exposure can result in skin cancer and UV rays concentrations used in some tanning beds can be 10 to 15 percent higher than the midday sun's UV rays. How to avoid getting too much of the dangerous ultraviolet rays:

  • Avoid overexposure to the sun's rays. The sun is hottest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Use a natural sunscreen, not sun tan lotion. Sunscreen should have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15-20. An SPF of at least 25 is recommended for children.
  • Apply sunscreen correctly. Sunscreen should be applied about 30 minutes before you step into the sunlight. This amount of time gives the SPF lotions a chance to penetrate adequately.
  • Remember that both UVA and UVB rays can be dangerous in excess.


Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise in the teenage and adolescent populations, and studies point toward an increased risk for teens who use tanning beds. One link to tanning beds is due to the fact that skin cancer is occurring in adolescents and teenagers who use tanning beds, even when there is not a family history of cancer. Mark Ranalli, MD, pediatric oncologist and Cancer expert at Nationwide Children's Hospital at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio says, Melanoma is the most common cancer encountered by women in their late 20's. He added that the chances of developing skin cancer later in life could be reduced if children were taught from an early age how to protect their skin and that these practices were then following throughout their lifetime. Children who are at particular risk for melanoma are those who have pale skin and are either redheads with freckles or are blue-eyed blondes. Full body checks also should be conducted frequently. Moles that should be given particular attention include moles that are larger and darker than any surrounding moles, are of a different color, or appear on skin that is otherwise unblemished. Should you notice such a mole, set up an appointment with your physician immediately.

Sources:,9171,1927282,00.html h


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