Kentucky teenagers are continuing to use indoor tanning in spite of the risks. Though tanning-bed use by children is illegal in 17 states and Washington, D.C., it is allowed in Kentucky. The Kentucky House passed a bill that would have made it illegal for those under 18 to use tanning beds, but it didn’t pass the Senate. The law allows those under 14 to use tanning beds if accompanied by an adult, and those 14 to 18 can if they have a parental consent form.
Having a tan is a popular trend for those attending prom and other events like dances and graduation parties, Christine Fellingham writes for The Courier-Journal of Louisville.
“Usually, I go to a tanning bed before a dance,” Naomi Popa, a 17-year-old Kentucky Country Day senior and occasional indoor tanner, told her. “I think it all started when one person went. Then everyone started going. If you’re the only one who doesn’t, you look so pale in comparison.”
Teens continue tanning, even though doing so increases the risk of getting cancer. “Tanning-bed use can increase your risk of skin cancer by 59 percent,” said Dr. Tamela Cassis, a Louisville dermatologist.
In June the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning that minors shouldn’t use tanning beds, and eventually all tanning beds will include a “black box” warning saying that those younger than 18 shouldn’t use them, Fellingham notes.
Not everyone will pay attention. “We talk to parents and teens about the dangers of tanning all day long,” Cassis said. “The youngest person I’ve treated to date for skin cancer was 16 years old. It required a wide local excision to cut it out. … It has made everyone in the family so much more aware. And like everyone else we see with skin cancer, he wishes he could take back the bad choices he made.”
Young people face a lot of peer pressure to be tan because they often associate being tan with being attractive. According to a 2013 American Academy of Dermatology survey, 80 percent of people under 25 said they believe they look better with a tan. “I feel more confi dent with a tan,” Popa said. “My skin clears up; I don’t need as much makeup. I think I look better.”
According to the academy, 2.3 million teens tan indoors every year, and 71 percent of those who use tanning salons are girls and women ages 16 to 29. In the past 40 years, skin cancer among females has increased eightfold, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.