Despite Evidence, Some Parents Skeptical Of Tanning Bed Cancer Risks: Study

Despite repeated warnings about the cancer risks associated with tanning beds, researchers warn that too many parents still believe indoor tanning is safe for their children. 

According to a survey conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General, many parents, particularly fathers, and those who tan themselves, were less likely to believe indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of skin cancer.

The findings were presented at the American Academy of Dermatology 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, involving an analysis of data from a poll of 1,200 parents of U.S. kids between the ages of 11 and 17. Researchers found that there were several different groups of parents who were more likely to believe indoor tanning was not harmful, including:

  • Dads.
  • Parents who used indoor tanning beds themselves.
  • Parents of boys.
  • Parents of older teens between the ages of 16 to 17.
  • Parents who never received skin cancer prevention counseling from their child’s doctor.
  • Parents of teens who typically didn’t get sunburns.

Researchers speculate that fathers are more likely to think indoor tanning isn’t harmful, because they are often less likely to take their child to the doctor, so they are less likely to receive warnings about indoor tanning from health care professionals. Possibly magnifying that problem are the results of another recent study, which indicated many doctors still don’t discuss the cancer risks associated with indoor tanning with their patients, especially teens.

Similarly, parents who have never seen their child get sunburned are also likely to think indoor tanning is safe. If a parent had used indoor tanning themselves, they were less likely to think their child would be harmed by the practice. Yet, research indicates the risk of skin cancer increased six-fold when a person begins tanning before the age of 30.

“Minors are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of indoor tanning,” Dr. Maryam Asgari, an associate professor in Massachusetts General Hospital’s dermatology department, and lead researcher, said in a American Academy of Dermatology Association press release on February 16. “If you use a tanning device early in life, you’re more likely to develop skin cancer later in life, your skin could age prematurely, and you may even develop a tanning addiction. The best way to avoid these risks is to never start tanning in the first place.”

Despite the many parents who didn’t think indoor tanning was harmful, research indicates the risk is being conveyed to many teens. Teen rates of indoor tanning have dropped over the past six years.

Researchers emphasized all parents should know the dangers of tanning, especially for teens, and communicate those dangers to their children.

More than a quarter million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. in 2015 were attributable specifically to indoor tanning. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and incidence of skin cancer has risen over the last 20 years, primarily due to indoor tanning bed use.

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