Tanning troubles for teens - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Tanning troubles for teens


There is an increase in skin troubles for teens and young adults across the country, and dermatologists say most of those troubles stem from indoor tanning. Many countries around the world are banning the beds completely, while some states in the US are implementing age restrictions, but not Alabama.

In California, no one under the age of 18 can use a tanning bed. In New Jersey, no one under 14 can. But in Alabama, there are absolutely no age restrictions required by law.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, if you use a tanning bed before the age of 35, your risk for getting melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, increases by 75 percent. It's a number that Dr. John Sowell, a dermatologist in Huntsville, can back up. He says he's seen a shift in the type of patients he treats.

"When I first started practicing 20 years ago, we saw melanoma in 40 years and above. Now we see it frequently in ladies in their 20's," he said.

And time in the tanning bed doesn't just up your chances of getting melanoma. It causes other, more common types of skin cancer too. According to an analysis led by the University of California San Francisco, those who expose themselves to indoor tanning have a 67 percent higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29 percent higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

Hundreds of studies have been released, warning of the dangers of tanning beds, so why do teens and young adults continue to lie under the lights? Kaylynn Campbell confesses so tanned her entire freshman year of college.

"I started to do it because all my friends were doing it and I wanted to do it too," she explained. "I definitely knew it was bad for me, I just didn't think anything would happen to me."

Dr. Sowell says that's a typical teen mindset.

"You were 16 once, and so was I. I don't think we had much wisdom at that age as we do now, and that's where parents come in," said Sowell. "Hopefully, they'll educate their kids on sunscreen use and tanning bed dangers."

It's a lesson that should be learned sooner rather than later, because most skin damage is done by the age of 25 and after that, there's no going back.

"Once you're 25 or 26 years old, most of the damage is done," explained Sowell. "Sunlight you get in your teens and early 20's gives you you're melanoma risk for the rest of your life."

So while the allure of golden brown skin might draw you in now, the real results won't be seen for years to come.

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