ABSTRACT: Background: The incidence of skin cancer, including melanoma, continues to increase. Teenagers are especially vulnerable, as are young females. The incidence of melanoma among young women in their twenties and thirties has begun to increase again. These young people are also the population that frequent tanning salons. Objective: This voluntary, anonymous, New York University, Institutional Review Board-approved survey was given to students in grades 9 through 12 to ascertain their understanding of what causes skin cancers and the dangers of excessive sun exposure and tanning salons. Methods and materials: An Institutional Review Board-approved, 22-question survey was administered anonymously to more than 450 students with 368 returned responses. The survey was administered to students in grades 9 through 12 at two high schools in New York and New Jersey. Results: More than 80 percent of students view movie stars as tan and almost 60 percent see "tan" people as better looking. In addition, more than 90 percent believe that a tan does not prevent further damage to the skin (as opposed to the customary belief that a "base" tan can protect against extreme sun exposures, such as when on a tropical vacation). There appears to be a disconnect between knowledge and sun tanning behaviors. Most teenagers still believe that tans are attractive and teenage girls continue to use tanning salons and tan naturally. We need to address the connection between sun tanning in youth and skin cancers years later. Legislation to limit access of tanning salons to teenagers needs to be enacted.
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 02/2009; 2(2):48-50.