Teens Unaffected by ‘Healthy Tan’ Debate

May 14, 2008 09:41 AM
by Colleen Brondou
Faced with the risks—and the benefits—of UV exposure, teens largely ignore both messages. They’re motivated by the notion that a dark tan is attractive.

30-Second Summary

The Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) recently launched a campaign targeting teens and young women that advocates the health benefits of sun exposure while denying the risks of skin cancer. Skin and cancer experts have responded with hard facts on the risks of UV exposure, sparking a “healthy tan” debate. Teens, meanwhile, have largely ignored both schools of thought, and continue to visit tanning salons because they believe a tan looks good.

Capitalizing on recent studies that show a vitamin D deficiency in many people, the ITA focuses on the ability of UV light to help the body manufacture vitamin D and suggests that indoor tanning is a safe and effective way to get the necessary amount of UV exposure.

However, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) points out that UV radiation is the biggest contributing factor to the development of skin cancer, and UV levels in tanning salons can be up to 15 times greater than that of the sun.

Despite the well-documented risks, 2.3 million teens visit tanning salons each year, often saying that it makes them feel more attractive and healthy to have a tan. According to Dr. Russell Brenneman, a dermatologist, part of the problem with changing teens’ attitudes about tanning is that it may take years before the sun damage is apparent. Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is changing how society perceives tanning. When the fashion industry decides that tanning is no longer attractive, teens are likely to follow suit.

Headline Link: Medical factors not a motivator for teens

Background: The pros and cons of UV light

Opinion & Analysis: Changing perceptions of tanned skin

Related Topic: Growth of plastic surgery among teens

Reference: A guide to skin care


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