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To deter risky UV exposure, appeal to teens' vanity
November 9th, 2011
05:57 PM ET

To deter risky UV exposure, appeal to teens' vanity

The way to convince teens and young adults to wear sunscreen, use sun protection and avoid tanning beds is by appealing to their vanity.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft this week, recommending counseling for people between the ages 10 and 24 years who have fair skin about minimizing their ultraviolet radiation exposure. The group routinely makes recommendations about what sort of preventive services should be used in medical care.

The most effective method for reaching this demographic was using booklets, photographs and videos showing how the sun ages and damages skin. This approach was especially convincing for female teens, who were most likely to use indoor tanning beds.

“Appearance-focused messages were successful at reducing intent to pursue this behavior,” according to the report released by the task force.

“We’ll take what we can get,” said Dr. Virginia Moyer, the panel chair of the task force.  “From the standpoint of accomplishing the goal of decreasing UV exposure, that goal was best accomplished using appearance-based counseling.”

Teens should be banned from tanning booths, doctors say

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.  Most of these cases are not associated with deaths, but a type of skin cancer called melanoma occurs in nearly 70,000 people and kills 8,800 Americans.  Skin cancer is more common among whites.

After reviewing the research, the task force set a “B” rating for this counseling method for people younger than 24 years of age.  This means that there is “high certainty that the net benefit is moderate or there is moderate certainty that the net benefit is moderate to substantial.”

The task force has issued some controversial recommendations in the past.  The most recent recommendation raised doubts about the effectiveness of prostate specific antigen tests, which are used to detect prostate cancer.  In 2009, the task force issued a controversial recommendation regarding breast cancer. 

The group’s latest guidance on skin cancer counseling is unlikely to raise any uproar.

There is less clarity whether such counseling works in adults older than age 24 years, because there weren’t many studies or research done on adults, Moyer said. Most of the scientific literature focused on teens and young adults, because they were more likely to use tanning beds.

 New law makes tanning beds off-limits to most California teens

“It doesn’t mean the minute you turn 25, you can get into the tanning bed,” she said.  “It’s not good for older people either.”


soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Everyone knows teens are invincible until they are 20 and invulnerable until they are 30 something. Try to tell them different!

    November 9, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spacetime

      Yeah, because at 22 I am too stupid to read and understand somethings can be harmful to my health. I never realized that laying in a tanning bed with fair skin is a bad idea, and I still do it today. And I totally don't know not to run with scissors either.

      That horse you're on is awfully high. Be sure you don't fall off while yelling at those kids to get off of your lawn.

      November 10, 2011 at 09:02 | Report abuse |
    • PoisonTrees

      That's judging millions of people you don't even know. That's like me saying everyone knows middle aged people are fat and errogent. Very rude and untrue.

      November 10, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Does the word "Factious" have any meaning in your little world of labels and scissors?

      November 10, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
    • BoddaGetta

      My mother thought that too, at 20. She had less education now about UV risks than we do today. She passed away from melanoma at 49. The thing about skin cancer is that the side effects aren't instant–they come back to haunt you and eventually kill you in 30 years.

      November 11, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
  2. dragonwife

    Genetics has some effect, of course, but the majority of those who tanned heavily when they were younger also tend to look older than their age, and those of us who didn't tend to look younger. When I was in my teens & early 20s, I was extremely jealous of those with a beautiful tan; the only reason I didn't lie out in the sun for hours myself was that I burnt very easily, even with sunscreen, and didn't tan no matter what I tried. I'm thankful now, though, because I'm in my late 50s and people who meet me still think I'm in my mid-40s. When someone is surprised to find that I'm old enough to have a 36-year-old son, it makes up for all the pitying looks and teasing I got because of my "Casper" skin when I was in high school! There are so many other ways now to get that look if you want to be tan, so why risk your health in a tanning bed?

    November 10, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Frank

      Please consider getting your vitamin d levels checked. Easy sunburning and sun sensitivity may simply be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. (Trust but verify: visit VitaminDCouncil.org)

      November 10, 2011 at 16:36 | Report abuse |
  3. PoisonTrees

    Yes, because teenagers don't have a brain that can reason and think. Also every teenager in the world would rather be tan and get skin cancer. Please, this is an obsurd article.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • laughter

      absurd*

      November 14, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
  4. Binky42

    It's easy to stop teens from using tanning beds. Tell them to pay for it themselves! Apparently they don't understand vanity or they wouldn't be walking around looking like burnt walnuts and oompa loompas.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BoddaGetta

      Or place age restrictions on them like cigarettes. They cause cancer just as much as cigs, so why don't we regulate it federally/state-wide like them.

      Then again, age restrictions don't work. We can't stop parents from blaming others when they are the ones providing incentives and money. These are the same types of parents that go out and buy Grand Theft Auto for their 8 year old, then threaten to sue the company because it's violent, when the game was rated M [17 and older can purchase] in the first place.

      November 11, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  5. Bobby

    Has anyone done ANY research to see the effects of toxins in sunscreen and the effects on the body.. Wouldn't it be ironic if it was the toxins in the screen itself that caused much of the cancers..I hate it when so called Professionals recommend something toxic without having any knowledge whether it is harmful or not..

    November 10, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Binky42

      Is sun screen harmful? Perhaps potentially, although probably no more so than those stinky lotions from Bath & Body Works. Is UV radiation harmful? Yes, without a doubt. You do the math.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Last spring the news was all abuzz about an Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) article about sunscreen toxicity. For the FDA it was in one ear and out the other. Optimal vitamin d levels are the best sunscreen.

      November 10, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
  6. Liz

    dragonwife your post is almost word for word what I would say except I am late 40's and people think I am in my 30's. Hooray for us Caspers :)

    November 10, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Alyssa

    I often wonder who exactly is paying for most teen girls to go tanning. My sister paid for year round memberships for tanning for her daughter starting at age 13. Given the fact that all her friends look tanned in the middle of January in the upper midwest and none of them have jobs, I presume it's the parents footing the bill. No way would I foot this bill in my house.

    November 10, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BoddaGetta

      It's the equivelent of a parent buying their kid cigarettes. Every other developed country in the world has restrictions and carcinogenic classifications of tanning beds...why not the US? We have numerous tanning salons in my town, with people shoving coupons in your face on university campuses and young adult hang outs. If you talk to them, they say that tanning beds are the best source of vitamin D and don't cause skin cancer. 15 minutes in natural sunlight gives you your daily dose of vitamin D, and is much less stressful on your body. Through my mother's death from melanoma, I know that tanning beds and non-refgulated chemicals in the sunscreen caused my mother's death.

      These teens also don't know that skin cancer doesn't just deform the outside dermis of the body, it also attacks you on the inside. Melanoma raced throughout my mother's bloodstream, causing tumors in her brain and spine, causing paralysis and a very gradual, painful death.

      Also, skin cancer is the number 1 cancer effecting people between the age of 17-29. Screw breast cancer awareness, what about melanoma/carcenoma awareness?

      November 11, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
  8. JoePa

    Teens are utterly worthless, let the sun burn their stupid faces up.

    November 10, 2011 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • try

      Then we would have adults w/ no faces. The point of the article is not to say teens are stupid but they see things from a different lens.

      November 10, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
  9. Marie

    Instances like this make me don't mind living in Canada. Mind you, I am painfully pale :(

    November 10, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Eva

    Living in Seattle, I'm mega pale, but hey! Who doesn't love Casper? And those tanning beds always looked a bit sinister to me... Like an oven for people. Creepiness. I'll stick to being a Casper, too.
    Eva, age 17

    November 12, 2011 at 05:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. rhi

    uvb rays are the harmful ones that burn you. when you lay out in the sun for hours on end with sunscreen on thinking your safe is when you run into problems. I wont tell you indoor tanning is by any means safe, but when the category you are placed in as well as the time is regulated so that you do not burn, the harm is reduced considerably. All things in excess are harmful. Dont be stupid about it and you wont have a problem.

    November 12, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Seriously?

    Who wears socks while tanning??????

    November 12, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply

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