A new study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reports that between 1970 and 2009 melanoma increased in young women and men between the ages of 18 and 39. Although men generally have a higher lifetime risk of melanoma than women, the researchers found the opposite trend to be true among the young adults. “We knew we would see an increase in rates among young women, but we were surprised we saw such a dramatic increase. This seems to be higher than what has been reported previously,” said Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr. Jerry Brewer in a teleconference.¹ The researchers believe this increase is due to tanning bed use and teenagers’ failure to heed warnings about the dangers of indoor tanning.
One thing that does seem to get the attention of this demographic is the wrinkling skin damage that is caused by tanning, and tanning beds in particular. Another study published in the May 2010 Archives of Dermatology focused on this aspect of indoor tanning, rather than the health risks. At the end of the study the half of the participants who were given materials to read that gave them alternative ways to improve their appearance had reduced their tanning habits.²
All this seems to indicate that even though young adults have sought to improve their self perceived appearance by tanning, they are even more concerned about looking wrinkled. There have been other reports that show that when a dermatologist talks to young patients about sunscreen use, they have better luck getting them to use it if they address skin aging, rather than skin cancer. So if the young tanners in your life haven’t responded to pleas to their mortality, try appealing to their vanity by recommending a lightweight daily sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.