Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is Looking Good for Prom Worth the Risk?

With prom season coming up, many teenage girls and boys are hitting up the tanning salons. However, how many of them are aware of the damage it can do to their skin or the risk it can cause of developing skin cancer? According to a report on, teenagers should be banned from the tanning beds (Teens should be banned from tanning booths, doctors say).

It's an activity the nation's pediatricians say is dangerous. Laws should ban minors from going to tanning parlors, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced Monday. This echoes positions of the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology. Melanoma affects the deepest layer of the skin and poses dangers because it spreads rapidly. Since 1992 it has been increasing by 3% each year in women between the ages of 15 and 39. "We are looking for legislation that prohibits kids from going to tanning salons. It's protecting our youth from something potentially harmful," said Dr. Sophie Balk, lead author of the statement written by an American Academy of Pediatrics committee.

The Indoor Tanning Association disagrees that tanning should be legislated. "We're talking about getting a sun tan," said John Overstreet, the association's spokesman. "This is a decision best left for parents, not the government. Let parents make the decision." He added that there is no scientific evidence that tanning is any worse at a younger age.

I will admit that I tan during the prom season, however, I usually only go for 16 minutes, once a week for maybe three or four weeks before the dance. I understand the risks and my mother even works in a doctors office, but I also life guard during the summer and I view my job as more of a danger for my skin than tanning for that little of time. I do not think that tanning should be out-lawed for teens but maybe some regulations should be put on it. Regulations that regulate how many times a week and how many minutes a teen is allowed to be in a tanning bed would seem more realistic than banning this activity. Because honestly you can buy a tanning bed to put in your home, so maybe teens wouldn't be allowed to tan in a salon but they could still do it at home. However, along with the regulations, tanning salons should be mandated to tell teen customers about the risks associated with tanning before they get in the booths.

While kids may not be more vulnerable to skin cancers, they are less capable of making responsible decisions, said Dr. David Fisher, chief of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "The industry has exploited this fact," he said. "They have packaged deals for repeat use."  The ads appear before prom season and offer student discounts. "

There have been a few instances where statements have been made that [ultraviolet rays] are healthy because of vitamin D. That's an extremely irresponsible concept that leads children or parents to think, 'It isn't so bad. What's wrong with looking good for prom?'" Tanning is a poor method of getting vitamin D, doctors say. The safer methods are supplements or incidental sun exposure. There are two types of radiation. UVA rays cause deeper damage to the skin, leading to wrinkles and DNA damage that causes the darkening. UVB rays cause sunburns. Sunlamps and tanning beds emit UVA rays that give customers a glow without a sunburn.

In their quest for a glowing tan, teenagers are pre-aging their skin by 10 to 20 years, Fisher warned. "It causes them to wrinkle later on and increases risk of skin cancer," said Balk, an attending pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, New York. "It doesn't mean everyone develops skin cancer, but it increases the risk."

Aging your skin by 10 to 20 years, as a teenage girl this is not something I want to do to my skin. But also I want to look good in my prom dress, so for me choosing to only tan once a week for a few weeks seems like a good balance. I also do not plan to continue tanning in college; once I'm done with the prom-thing I'll also be done with the tanning-thing. Maybe some teenagers out there will rethink their tanning plans after knowing about the risk they are putting themselves at for cancer.

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