Large numbers of teens are using indoor tanning devices, and that’s leading to skin cancer at earlier ages, according to a Minnesota Department of Health report released Tuesday.
About a third of 11th grade white females reported on the Minnesota Student Survey that they had tanned in the past year, and more than half of those had tanned 10 or more times.
"The survey underscores the importance of educating teenagers about the very real risks of tanning, one of which is increasing the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer," the release quoted Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.
(Tanning is much less frequent among non-white students, who averaged an 8 percent rate of using indoor tanning devices in the past year. Rates are also low among males.)
This was the first year that the Minnesota Student Survey included questions about indoor tanning. But it echoes with a long-measured rise in the rate of melanoma—the second most common cancer among females ages 15 to 29 years old, according to Minnesota cancer registry data.
The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention advises people to avoid tanning beds and intentional tanning. Users receive 10 to 15 times more ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning beds than natural sunlight, boosting the risk of developing melanoma by at least 59 percent, according to the Department of Health.
The number of non-Hispanic white women ages 20 to 49 years old diagnosed with melanoma has increased of 5 percent each year over about 15 years. The rate has doubled over that period—from 14.2 cases per 100,000 people in 1995 to 29.2 cases per 100,000 people in 2009, the latest year available.
"We see many young women with melanoma on their torso, which may be the result of high-risk tanning behaviors such as indoor tanning," the release quoted Rochelle Torgerson, a dermatologist and president of the Minnesota Dermatological Society.
At least 33 states and Washington, DC, have some regulation limiting the use of tanning beds by minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California, Illinois, Nevada, Texas and Vermont ban the use of tanning beds for anyone younger than 18. Minnesota is one of 11 states that requires parental permission for minors to tan in some cases. Those under 16 need parental permission to tan indoors. Parental permission is not required for 16- and 17-year-olds.
- Click the map above for a full breakdown on state laws.
What do you think of teen tanning? Do you allow it for your children? Should there be a minimum age? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.