Suntans Sexier Than Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer rampant among young adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sure, a bronze, suntanned look is youthful and sexy. The thing is, young people - particularly young women - are putting their long-term health at risk by going after that look.

Nearly a third (32 percent) of white young women between the ages of 18 and 21 say they use indoor tanning, according to recent findings from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).  

And this was just one of the risky behaviors researchers learned young people engage in.

"Use sunscreen, stay in the shade, wear protective clothing."

The NHIS asks Americans over the age of 18 about a variety of health topics. Two studies used this data to assess if and how young people are protecting themselves from the harmful effects of UV radiation found in sunlight and artificial tanning booths.

Overexposure to this type of invisible light can cause sunburns and lead to skin cancer, a disease that costs American's almost $2 billion a year.

Here's what the surveys found:

  • In 2010, about 65 percent of adults 18-29 years old had one or more sunburns.
  • To protect themselves from the sun, only 37 percent of women used sunscreen, and 35 percent stayed in the shade.
  • A third of men in this age group wore long clothing to their ankles and 26 percent stayed in the shade.
  • 32 percent of women aged 18-21 visited indoor tanning facilities.
  • 28 was the average number of visits per year for people who did indoor tanning.
  • 58 percent of women and 40 percent of men had indoor tanning 10 or more times in the past year.

These behaviors may account for the startling skin cancer trends in young Americans.  Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer is on the rise among young people, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study.

In a video clip, Jerry Brewer, MD, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, said that the study found the increased incidence of melanoma was "four-fold higher in men and about eight-fold higher in women."  

“A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men,” Dr. Brewer said.

So is a suntan sexier than skin cancer? Probably not.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 15, 2012
Last Updated:
July 12, 2012