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The increase use of tanning beds by teenagers has contributed to a sharp rise in melanoma rates in young people, says New York City Dermatologist Joshua Fox, M.D. The short-term bronzing effects of tanning-bed use are simply not worth the possible long-term consequence of skin-cancer risk and premature aging, he adds.
“Particularly during the teenage years, continued use of a tanning bed or sun lamp can be quite dangerous,” Fox says. “It can increase your risks of developing malignant melanoma by more than 55 percent, and it can about double your chances of basal cell cancer.”
According to the American Academy of dermatology and the American Cancer Society:
Melanoma now ranks as the most common cancer among people ages 25 to 29
Each year, more than one million people, many of them teenagers, visit tanning salons.
From the 1970s to the a990s, melanoma rates rose 10.5 percent in women and 26.7 percent in men.
Melanoma is linked to excessive sun exposure in the first 10 to 19 years of life, a period during which almost 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs.
“The reason teens are so at risk is that they are still experiencing such tremendous growth at the cellular level,” Fox explains. “Their skin cells, like every other cell in the bodies, are dividing more rapidly than they do when we reach adulthood. And the more rapidly cells change, the higher the chances are that they will change detrimentally – particularly when hit by the deleterious effects of the sun – and cancer will develop.”
Many surveys have found that teens use tanning beds for one reason: vanity. But a study published recently in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, suggests there could be more to it. Researchers found evidence that UVA rays in tanning beds may stimulate the brain to produce endorphins, those “feel good” hormones that are released during such positive activities as exercise, but also during such negative behaviors as drug use or cigarette smoking. “The relaxing and reinforcing effects of UV exposure contribute to tanning behavior or frequent tanners, and should be explored in greater detail,” the study’s authors conclude.
The American Academy of Dermatology, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Cancer Society all encourage parents of teens to review the dangers of tanning beds with their children, and to prohibit their use. There are many safe self-tanning creams, gels and sprays available today that can give the appearance of a natural tan without the possibly devastating side effects of tanning beds and sun lamps.