Melanoma is the most dangerous and aggressive form of skin cancer, and the cases in the United States and across the globe continue to rise. One of the most significant reasons for this sharp increase in melanoma cases is the growing popularity of indoor tanning and tanning bed use. Although tanning beds have been placed in the same cancer risk category as cigarettes and asbestos, the popularity of these devices remains.
Although legislation has been passed in many states to limit tanning bed use and increase skin cancer awareness, young adults, particularly females tend to ignore many of the warnings. So what can we do as parents?
Setting a good example when it comes to health behaviors is key. According to a study by Seidenberg, Noar, and Sontag (2017), young women who tan the first time with their mother are more likely to become frequent tanners than those that do not. Just like with smoking cigarettes, some adolescents perceive viewing their mother or father tanning as a sign that the behavior is okay. Moreover, for those adolescents that tan for the first time with their parent, it can signify a ‘stamp of approval’ on the behavior that leads to more frequent and casual use of tanning beds for the rest of their lives.
Although many organizations and we as healthcare providers are doing our best to spread the word about the many dangers of tanning beds, we will not be able to make an impact if kids have been raised to believe this behavior is okay. According to the same study, behaviors initiated with a parent may become more normalized in the mind of an adolescent, and thus make them less receptive to risk messages and behavioral change (Seidenberg, Noar, & Sontag, 2017). So while we work hard to protect the public, including the adolescents who are more prone to risky behavior, we need parents leading the way at home.
If you do not want your kids to smoke, don’t smoke. If you want your kids to be more active, then exercise with them. If you want your kids to stay out of tanning beds, then set the example and stay out. You may be saving their life.
Written by: Dr. Patricia M. Delgado, DNP, AGPCNP-BC.