That scary title brought to you by a new study that was performed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization, which shows that people who begin using tanning beds regularly before age 30 increase their risk of developing skin cancer by 75%. The group has said that this makes regular tanning bed use as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) as smoking cigarettes, and as dangerous as arsenic. (You can read the entire article here, if you have log-in credentials).
The interesting part about these statistics is that women currently have a far lower chance of developing skin cancer than men do, for both melanomas and the most common nonmelanoma carcinomas. Still, it seems that we’re just aching to catch up, because the predominant users of tanning beds are young women. According to a large study of American teenagers, girls are far more likely to think it was worth getting burned to get a tan, to believe that some, most, or all their friends tanned, and to put a high value on tanned skin. It seems quite obvious that this is an issue that starts far before a teenage girl gets in the tanning bed; it involves a clear societal value or beauty ideal being placed above health. These seem all to common among women today, from unhealthy dieting to risking surgery and back problems simply to have larger breasts.
Now that we know the risks, and we understand that it is really our young women who are in the most danger, what should we do at a personal or political level? Already, several states have enacted laws that require parental permission for teens to use tanning beds, require a doctor’s note, or simply ban tanning by persons under a certain age altogether. What do you think? Knowing the risks, will you still use a tanning bed? Do you think that adults should be unfettered by the government in this risky practice, even as we protect our nation’s teenagers?