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Indoor Tanning Encouraged by Parents, Peers

When it comes to indoor tanning, sometimes mother doesn’t know best. Results of a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) found that a large percentage of Caucasian teen girls and young women who use tanning beds reported that their mothers also use tanning beds.

When asked if anyone in their immediate or extended families uses a tanning bed, indoor tanners were more than twice as likely to have a family member who used a tanning bed (65%) compared to their non-indoor tanning peers (28%). Specifically, indoor tanners were four times as likely (42%) to indicate that their moms use tanning beds than those respondents who were not indoor tanners (10%).

Studies show indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of melanoma by 75%. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing faster in females 15–29 years old than in males of the same age group.

“Mothers who tan indoors are not only putting themselves at risk for skin cancer, but they also may be putting their daughters at risk,” says dermatologist Ellen S. Marmur, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The survey shows how influential mothers can be on their daughters’ behavior, and that is why it’s critical for mothers to set a good example by not tanning.”

The vast majority of indoor tanners also reported that their own use of tanning beds was not a secret in their families. When questioned as to whether their parents were aware of their use of tanning beds, 94% of indoor tanners indicated that their parents did know that they were using or have used a tanning bed.

In addition, the survey indicated that a number of teens and young women feel pressured to be tan by their peers. For example, the survey found that those respondents who used tanning beds in the past year were nearly twice as likely to indicate feeling peer pressure to be tan (49%) compared to respondents who were not tanning bed users (28%). A vast majority of indoor tanners (96%) also reported having friends who tan indoors and/or outdoors.

“Tanning is a dangerous, unhealthy behavior, similar in seriousness to smoking or drinking alcohol, where teens often succumb to peer pressure,” says Marmur. “Yet, it is troubling that so many parents are aware of their teens’ use of tanning beds and allow this harmful behavior to continue or even set a bad example themselves by indoor tanning. We urge parents to educate their teens about the dangers of UV exposure from tanning beds and to discourage or prohibit this activity for all family members.”

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. Visit to find “31 Days 31 Ways to prevent and detect melanoma,” download a body mole map or look for free skin cancer screenings in your area.