Prom season and summer approach, and with them teenage girls seeking suntans. New research published in the May issue of Pediatrics finds that the number of children diagnosed with melanoma has increased an average 2% a year since the 1970s, with the incidence of melanoma significantly higher among white girls, age 15-19, than among boys and younger children. (See “Incidence of Childhood and Adolescent Melanoma in the United States: 1973-2009” / Abstract / Full Text (PDF)) The new study builds on previous research linking tanning and melanoma and provides a strong hook for an off-the-news feature on adolescent girls and the risks of tanning.
As the new Pediatrics study notes, the indoor tanning industry has been growing since the 1970s. The Indoor Tanning Association reports substantial growth over the last 25 years and counts 19,000 indoor tanning facility businesses across the country. The Centers for Disease Control report that 21% of high school girls used an indoor tanning device at least once in the past year, compared with 6% of high school boys. Earlier research found that people who use indoor tanning devices are 75% more likely to develop melanoma than non-users. The Pediatrics study also reports increases in melanoma in “low UV-B” areas among 15-19 year-olds, suggesting teenagers using inadequate sun protection in locations not associated with strong sunshine.
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center