Many of you have older, college-aged children. A growing concern for this age group is tanning, especially indoor tanning. A recent investigation found that more than half of the US’s top colleges had tanning beds on campus or in off-campus housing facilities. Several of these colleges allowed students to purchase tanning services using their college cards. This is highly concerning for a few reasons:
*A single indoor tanning visit increases the user’s chances of developing melanoma by 20%
*For young adults aged 18-29, 76% of melanoma cases were attributed to tanning bed use
*Women who use indoor tanning beds 6x per year during high school or college had a 73% increased risk of developing Basal Cell Carcinoma
*Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25-29 years old and the second most common in young people ages 15-29
*One person dies from melanoma every hour (over 9,000 people per year)
*Despite all of the above, 70% of Americans who use tanning salons are women aged 16-28
Why is it prevalent in college?
Several states (12 states, currently) have a ban on minors less than 18 years old using tanning beds and other states are starting to also introduce similar legislation. College students are of an age to legally be able to tan without parental consent, and the availability of tanning salons on campus or at off-campus housing many young adults to begin this dangerous habit. The ability to use at certain universities to use campus cash cards to purchase tanning also seems to be a factor.
What can we do?
Several skin cancer organizations, dermatology organizations and individual advocates are bringing this issue to the attention of the universities in question to encourage these schools to stop associations with tanning salons and to remove tanning beds from school properties. In 2014, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action focused on preventing skin cancer and specifically pointed to UV tanning on college campuses, so we are all hopeful that there will be big changes on American campuses soon.
On a smaller scale, we recommend that parents & other influential adults speak with the teens & young adults about the dangers of tanning and encourage healthy habits. But how can we get them to listen? This is the hard part, I agree. The possibility of skin cancer seems so far away and young people typically feel invincible. True life stories & images (such as those found on the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website) of young people who have had skin cancer may prove helpful with speaking to your teens or young adult children. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that this age group is more likely to avoid tanning if the prevention approach focuses on aesthetics & appearance rather than skin cancer (http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning/appearance-trumps-health). Highlight that tanning can lead to premature skin aging such as rough skin texture, dark spots & discoloration, wrinkles, fine lines, etc. Most young people tan because of appearance, so this may be the exact factor that will change their minds. If they really want that bronzed look, remind them that modern self-tanners are much better at providing natural-looking color.
We cannot control our young adult children’s choices, but we can have an influence. We just want to encourage you to have a conversation with your teens before they head off to college. When they get there, the tanning bed workers will tell them its “safe” and “healthy” because they need that Vitamin D and a base tan, but these statements are untrue. Not to be scary, but no one wants to learn that the hard way at the oncologist’s office.
For More Information:
Skin Cancer Foundation:
Melanoma Research Foundation: Why is Tanning So Dangerous?