Tanning beds have become the latest staple of college campuses, as the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that approximately half of the top 125 college and universities ranked in the US News and World Report have indoor tanning beds in campus or in off-campus housing. The item, that was once considered a luxury, is now accessible to over 500,000 students on campus. So common they are able to use the campus cash cards most often reserved for dining halls to purchase the service. The new study spikes concerns among health officials over the perceived safety of tanning booths. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, senior medical contributor for ABC News, states,
One of the myths of indoor tanning is that it provides a safe tan… If you speak to any skin expert, any dermatologist will tell you there is no such thing as a safe tan.”
Melanoma, a form of skin cancer specifically associated with tanning, is reportedly rising among younger demographics, and is now the most prominent form of cancer among individuals ages 25 to 29. Author of the study, Dr. Sherry Pagoto, notes,
It’s one of those cancers that’s actually sneaking up on us. People don’t think of skin cancer as being a super prevalent cancer, one to be concerned about, but it really is sneaking up on us, particularly in young people and the reason is because of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and that obviously includes tanning salons.”
Another major appeal of indoor tanning is also the addictive nature of the process. Indoor tanning especially takes place during the winter, often to reduce stress or feel warm.
The Indoor Tanning Association has taken a stand against the negative press produced by the study, stating there is no true connection between melanoma skin cancer and UN exposure for the sun or indoor tanning.
While the group may argue there are no definitive links, the FDA differs stating on their site (see here) there is an association between indoor tanning and two types of skin cancer, as well as an association between UV-emitting tanning devices and cancer of the eye. Furthermore, the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent for individuals who begin using tanning beds prior to the age of 35. Despite these concerning details, young individuals continue to use indoor tanning at increasing rates. Why? Well Ron Kaczmarek, M.D., M.P.H., an FDA epidemiologist suggests,
Young people may not think they are vulnerable to skin cancer… They have difficulty thinking about their own mortality.”
Read more here- “No Shortage of Tanning Beds for Students at Top College in the US,” (ABC News)
Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.