Tanning Safety for Teens
by Christina Lorenzen
Just as we give a sigh of relief that the terrible twos and trying times of toddlerhood have passed, we turn around and those toddlers are teens. Time changes everything and as the old saying goes little children, little problems...big children, bigger problems. Now we find ourselves in a whole new ball game.
With the teen and preteen years comes a new set of challenges. Today's teens are nothing like the teenagers you or I were. No, they aren't content to ride their bikes around the corner or walk to the corner store. No today's teens are swimming in a much bigger pond, struggling to keep up the pace with their peers. Many teenagers have hours of freedom a day with both parents working until the early evening. They have their own keys to the house, their own cell phones and lots of freedom to roam. Teens today are very competitive when it comes to clothes, makeup and imitating what they see in the magazines. Eating disorders are not only a problem in the high school level but in children as young as 10.
Now we have yet another trend luring our teens. It's gone beyond the perfect skin and clear complexion. Today's teens want that healthy glow that they see so often on the covers of magazines. Tanning salons are the new trend and according to Jr. Joshua Fox, Dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, 10% of teenagers have used a tanning salon in 2004. The danger of this practice goes beyond the obsessive desire to get the perfect tan.
In March of this year, California Governor Arnold Schwartznegger signed a bill that made teen visits to a tanning salon illegal in California without parental consent. California isn't the only one, as a number of states begin to implement proposals to pass similar laws. In New York, for example, in Suffolk County, anyone under 14 is banned from using sun beds and teens 14-18 must be accompanied by a parent. In Nassau County, New York, a proposal calls for everybody under 18 to have signed parental approval and teens under 16 to have a parent accompanying them. Dr. Fox credits his colleagues for taken this important measure in response to the rise in Melanoma cases.
Tanning beds are especially dangerous to teenage skin as teenage skin is experiencing rapid cellular activity. The UVA and UVB rays of tanning beds are much more power and dangerous rays. Dr. Fox cites concerns about the rise in melanoma and adds that "In the 15-20 age range the major cause of death is cancer. Dr. Fox adds that although tanning salons are used more by girls than boys (3 to 1), all teens need to know that there is no such thing as a safe tan.
Another concern that makes the use of tanning beds particularly hazardous to teens is that many teens are using acne medication. There should be warnings about photosensitive conditions as well as for people who are using acne medication such as Tetracycline. Often these conditions and medications can interact with the rays and cause skin to blister, says Fox. Fox also stresses that though 26 states have regulations, no one is out there enforcing them.
Parents have so many important things to discuss with their teens and safety in the sun should be one of them. Fox encourages parents to approach the subject in a positive way. Maybe tell them "yes, I like the way you look with that color=" but recommend a safe alternative, says Fox. "Offer to buy your teen a bronzing cream that looks just as good and is safe. Tell them that there is no such thing as a safe tan."
Though Fox agrees that most teens will not be thinking long term and mortality, girls, especially, might be convinced if you discuss other dangers. "You can discuss skin cancer but it many not make an effect. Talk about wrinkling and premature aging and you might make a connection," says Fox. Fox offers two major tips for parents to pass on to their teens when it comes to tanning. "Tell them to avoid the sun between 10-3 and to wear sunblock every day". Fox feels it is important that parents make sure their teens get yearly physicals. Teens should also do monthly skin exams and know possible signs of skin cancer.They should be aware of changes in color, shape, symmetry and diameter of moles. "Bleeding moles or any change in a mole should merit a check with a dermatologist," says Fox. "It may not be anything but it's better to check and be safe."