Despite Mounting Evidence, High School Girls Keep Tanning


You’re surely aware of all of the information out there clearly explaining why tanning salons are absolutely, unquestionably not a good idea?

Evidently, young America has yet to get the memo.

As a new report from JAMA Internal Medicine found:

Among non-Hispanic white female high school students, 29.3% engaged in indoor tanning and 16.7% engaged in frequent indoor tanning during the previous 12 months. The prevalence of indoor tanning and frequent indoor tanning increased with age.

These numbers  — about 1/3 of high schoolers tanning within the past year — are surprisingly static. A study done by the CDC in 2010 also found about a third of young white women reported indoor tanning.

What’s going amiss? I talked to Emily Colson, a high school senior in South Carolina whose experience closely mirrors the study’s findings. She first started using tanning beds as a freshman, relying on them for occasions with high expectations, like prom and the first week of summer. “I don’t like being pale or being pasty – I think I look a lot better when I’m tanner,” she said. Continue reading

Study: Teens Ignore Public Health Push For Sunscreen, Against Tanning

But did she use sunscreen?

Today I felt like stripping down naked outside and sucking up enough sunshine and vitamin D to get me through the winter. I did not, I’ll admit, think much about sunscreen.

Well, apparently, nor did a great swath of kids from Massachusetts. These adolescents (mostly girls) ranging in age from 10 to 13 were surveyed as part of a study in the journal Pediatrics this month that found despite an aggressive public health push promoting sunscreen and dissing golden tans, the message isn’t getting across.

Time’s Healthland reports:

Researchers surveyed 360 Massachusetts fifth graders, mostly aged 10 and 11, in 2004 about their sun-related behaviors, and then followed up with them again in 2007, when the kids were in eighth grade. Over those three years, the study found, teens sunbathed more often and used sunscreen less.

In fifth grade, half of kids said they used sunscreen “often or always” while out in the summer sun. By eighth grade, that percentage had dropped to 25%. In both surveys, more than half of kids reported having experienced a sunburn in the previous year, and the risk of sunburn increased most in “very fair to fair” teens — those who are at greatest risk.

Why? Likely vanity, in part: as they got older, teens were more likely to report “liking a tan.” Continue reading