Young people still risking skin cancer for tans

Two new government studies show young people are still putting themselves at risk for skin cancer by getting sunburned and going to indoor tanning beds.

One study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that half of those aged 18 to 29 had at least one sunburn it the past year, though they were increasingly using sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing.

The other study by the National Cancer Institute found 32 percent of those 18 to 21 were going to indoor tanning salons and 30 percent of those 22 to 25 were.

Both studies used data from a cancer supplement to the National Health Interview Survey, an ongoing national health survey.

“More public health efforts, including providing shade and sunscreen in recreational settings, are needed to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and sunburn prevention to reduce the burden of skin cancer,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, in a statement. “We must accelerate our efforts to educate young adults about the dangers of indoor tanning to prevent melanoma as this generation ages.”

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer across the country. And risks of getting melanoma, the most deadly kind of skin cancer, increase by 75 when those 35 and younger are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning equipment. A sunburn also means too much exposure to the ultraviolet radiation.

Researchers said effort and public policy tends to target adolescents rather than young adults when it comes to skin cancer, and that needs to change, they said. All people need to use sunscreen with a protective factor of at least 15, seek shade, especially in midday hours and wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and wrap-around sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. They also need to avoid indoor tanning.

For more information about skin cancer prevention, go to For more information about cancer, go to or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).


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