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Teens know risks of tanning but do it anyway, survey finds

CHICAGO – If the latest tanning survey is any indication, 17-year-old Lindsey Vitez is a totally typical teenager.

“I hate looking deathly pale,” said Vitez, who seeks a tan year-round, bronzing at tanning salons in cool months and hanging out by the pool or beach in summertime, using lotion to attract the sun, not protect against skin cancer.

“I think a lot of teenagers realize it’s dangerous, but because we’re so wrapped up in instant gratification, we don’t really worry about it,” said Vitez, of Norwalk, Conn.

The American Academy of Dermatology found similar attitudes in a nationwide survey of 505 youths 12 to 17 years old.

Almost 80 percent said they know tanning can be dangerous and that childhood sunburns increase risks of skin cancer, the survey to be released today found. Yet, 66 percent said people look better with a tan, nearly half said tans look healthier and 60 percent said they got sunburned last summer.

The dermatology group recommends avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, wearing hats and using sunscreen.

Girls are more likely than boys to use sunscreen – 53 percent versus 33 percent – and to say they are at least somewhat careful about protecting themselves from the sun – 59 percent compared with 36 percent.

The results echo previous teen surveys and show that despite efforts to get the word out about the dangers of tanning, teens aren’t getting the message, said Dr. Darrell Rigel, a New York University dermatology professor involved in the survey research.

The findings are disappointing, especially considering that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer – or more than 1 million people yearly, Rigel said.


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