By Samantha Schwartz ’16
Indoor tanning has been linked to skin cancer and the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) Dermatology recently published a new study examining associations between indoor tanning and melanoma among men and women younger than 50 years old.
In the United States, melanoma cases are rising more steadily among women than men younger than 50 years old. The lead author of the study, DeAnn Lazovich of the University of Minnesota, set out to examine age-and sex-specific associations between indoor tanning and melanoma to determine if these trends could be due to greater indoor tanning use among younger women. This is the first study of its kind to tackle the gender correlations.
The study was a population-based case-control study conducted in Minnesota of 681 patients (465 women) ages 25 to 49 years diagnosed as having melanoma between 2004 and 2007. The results suggested that as men and women start indoor tanning earlier, their risk of melanoma increases. In fact, only two of the 63 women study participants with melanoma did not tan indoors. For all the participants in the study, as the number of past tanning sessions increased, so did their risk of a melanoma diagnosis.
Young women especially are drawn to an easy tan because they perceive tanned skin to be more appealing and socially acceptable than pale skin. This ideology is screwed into the heads of impressionable young adults through media platforms as they watch tanned and beautiful celebrities walk red carpets, strut runways and plaster advertisements. Tan skin has become a symbol for beauty, confidence, wealth and power. ABC News conducted a study in which people determined whether an original photo or the doctored version of the photo where the participant appeared tanner was more attractive. The original photos and the tan versions were posted to the ABC News site at different times. The survey found that the darker version was twice as likely to be rated as more attractive. Society continually tells young people that tanned skin is better, but the dangers outweigh the aesthetics.
There is no doubt that indoor tanning is dangerous. Forty-two states regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors by requiring a guardian’s permission, but only 11 states completely ban the use of indoor tanning for all minors. In Maryland, a parent or guardian’s permission or accompaniment is required.
Alternatives for faux-tans may not be as effective and flawless, but studies show they are much safer than indoor tanning.