Teenage tanning habits worry health officials

Tanning bed
In this file photo, a tanning salon employee shows the tanning bed to a customer.
Dave Samson/AP, file

A new survey reports that 34 percent of 11th-grade girls in Minnesota have used indoor tanning facilities in the last year.

"That is a little bit alarming, but unfortunately, not all that surprising," Dr. Jerry Brewer, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic, told MPR News' Tom Crann.

This year's Minnesota Student Survey, conducted by the state Department of Health, asked students for the first time about their tanning habits.

"The survey underscores the importance of educating teenagers about the very real risks of tanning, one of which is increasing the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer," said Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger in a news release.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

The Health Department news release continues:

Indoor tanning beds deliver 10 to 15 times more ultraviolet (UV) radiation than natural sunlight, boosting the user's risk of developing melanoma by at least 59 percent. Indoor tanning is considered so dangerous that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared UV radiation from indoor tanning as a carcinogen.

Dermatologist Rochelle Torgerson, M.D., Ph.D, and president of the Minnesota Dermatological Society said "We see many young women with melanoma on their torso, which may be the result of high-risk tanning behaviors such as indoor tanning."

Melanoma is the second most common cancer among females ages 15 to 29 years old, according to Minnesota cancer registry data. The number of non-Hispanic white women ages 20 to 49 years old diagnosed with melanoma is increasing 5 percent each year. This trend has been observed for 15 years. The number of young women diagnosed with melanoma each year has doubled in that fifteen year period.

The Health Department is also running an online video competition to educate teens on the dangers of tanning.

Click the audio player above to hear Crann's full conversation with dermatologist Jerry Brewer.