Desire for a tan is making teenage girls ignore sunbed dangers

February 1, 2013
Desire for a tan is making teenage girls ignore sunbed dangers

Teenage girls desperate for a tan are determined to find ways of getting round the law banning under-18s from using sunbeds, according to a new study from Cancer Research UK published in the Journal of Public Health.

During focus groups, 15-18 year old girls who regularly used sunbeds were asked questions that explored their to use them, their attitudes towards supervision and their knowledge of the health risks. The study found that their desire to get a tan overcame any misgivings about the .

Participants said that having a tan made them feel more confident, look healthier and was an important consideration for special events. And when it came to the health risks, most teenagers knew about the potential dangers but were happy to accept or ignore them.

Dr Jeffrey Lake, public health consultant and lead author of the study, said: "The research shows us that the desire for tanned skin in young people is blinding them to the potential long-term health risks associated with regularly using sunbeds.

"We're finding that their worries are cosmetic when they should really be thinking about the unseen damage they're inflicting on themselves."

In 2010, a Cancer Research UK study revealed that a quarter of a million children in England between the ages of 11 and 17 were regularly using sunbeds. In 2011, legislation in England and Wales made it illegal for under 18s to use sunbeds.

But the law in England risks falling short because it is difficult to ensure that are supervised by trained staff who can stop teenagers from using potentially harmful equipment and warn customers about .

Catherine Thomson, head of at Research UK and co-author of the study, said: "It's worrying to see that, in some areas of the UK, half of all 15-17 year old girls are using sunbeds on a regular basis.

"Introducing the legislation banning sunbed use by under 18s was vital to protect younger people from the harmful effects of UV. But proper supervision in salons is essential to combat the determination of teenagers to get round laws that are there for their own protection."

The findings are published just over a week before Cancer Research UK launches its R UV UGLY? campaign for a second time in England.  As part of the campaign, people will be offered free cosmetic skin scans at sk:n clinics across the country.  Specialist skin-scanning technology will be used to highlight the hidden cosmetic damage lurking beneath the skin's surface, such as pigmentation and premature wrinkles, caused by overexposure to UV both from sunbeds and the sun.

Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This study shows that we need to persuade teenagers that damaging their health really isn't justified by the promise of a tan.

"Sunbeds aren't harmless and research has showed that using them for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by 59 per cent."

Explore further: Sunbed skin cancer risk double that of Mediterranean midday summer sun

More information: Lake, J., Thomson, C., Twelves, C., & Davies, E. (2013). A qualitative investigation of the motivations, experiences and views of female sunbed users under the age of 18 in England Journal of Public Health DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fds107

Related Stories

Sunburnt Australia to pull plug on sunbed tans

February 19, 2012

Jay Allen used to love having what he thought was a healthy tan -- so much so that he would regularly expose his body to the lights of a sunbed to ensure he maintained his overall colour.

Recommended for you

Is soda bad for your brain? (and is diet soda worse?)

April 20, 2017

Americans love sugar. Together we consumed nearly 11 million metric tons of it in 2016, according to the US Department of Agriculture, much of it in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages like sports drinks and soda.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 01, 2013
This is another example of pitiful research aimed to attack indoor tanning. This "study" is based on interviews with less than 70 people. I'm no MD, but I'm pretty sure it's irresponsible to try to generate and promote an opinion based on such a ridiculous sample size. I'm actually a little disappointed that a site like this would even print such rubbish without acknowledging the limitations of the research it's based on.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.