State Tanning Laws Put Young Women Off Tanning Beds, CDC Finds

Among young women, skin cancer rates are on the rise, partly due to a spike in popularity of tanning beds. In fact, there are more cases of skin cancer from tanning beds every year than there are lung cancer cases from cigarettes. Fortunately, data researchers have found something that combats the dangerous habit: tanning laws. Yup, state restrictions on tanning are real, and, as it turns out, pretty effective. Teen girls are less likely to use tanning beds if they live in areas that have regulations to control it, according to new CDC data.

Researchers from the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control analyzed national surveys from high-school students, and found that 23.4 percent of females engaged in indoor tanning (while only 6.5 percent of males did.) The CDC found that locations with regulations like warning statements, limited advertising, and mandatory protective eyewear saw lower rates of exposure among young girls. So, apparently, rule-breaking isn't so popular with teens after all — at least when it comes to tanning.

The odds of female students hitting those UV ray-beds were 30 percent less in states with such laws, and areas that set an age limit for indoor tanning and required parental permission for minors saw their teen girls be 42 percent less likely to tan. What we don't know, though, is whether they just shrugged and opted for some outdoor sun instead.

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Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Though the highest rates are found in white men over 50, studies show that nearly half of teen white girls have used a tanning salon by age 18, which increases their risk to the disease. It's an extreme habit, to the point that one in seven women would still continue after a skin cancer diagnosis.

Even without the raised risk of skin cancer, tanning beds just aren't good for you: harmful side effects of indoor tanning include early wrinkling of the skin, eye damage from UV rays, and severe burns. Currently, states like California, Illinois, and Texas ban the use of tanning beds for minors under 18, and more cities are looking to regulate exposure.

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