It’s hard to say just how many children hop into tanning beds in Texas on a regular basis.
Dr. Jeffrey Gershenwald directs the Melanoma and Skin Center at MD Anderson. He says a recent national survey by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found teenage tanning bed use is higher than previously thought.
“Among 15-year-olds, about 12 percent tanned. And it was close to 20 percent by age 17.”
Dr. Gershenwald says when kids start tanning at those ages, even occasionally, their chance of developing melanoma by the time they hit middle age increases by more than 40 percent.
“And the number of sessions, the length of the sessions — all these things impact and, collectively, increase the risk — really, strongly supporting that if you can avoid a tanning bed, you’re doing good for your body.”
The dangers of ultraviolet radiation exposure have been known for decades, but Dr. Gershenwald says more education is needed to get children and their parents to view tanning the same as smoking. The World Health Organization has placed tanning devices that emit UV rays on the same list of carcinogens as tobacco smoke and plutonium.
The statewide ban on minors using tanning beds will take effect on September 1st.