By Samantha VanHoef
The Meridian Times
According to a national survey, the rates of teens who use indoor tanning have declined in the past five years. The study by the Journal of the American Medical Association compiled data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey— a survey that uses samples of teens from private and public high schools from around the country— found that rates for teenage girls dropped by 5 percent between 2009 and 2013, and the rates for boys dropped 2 percent in the same time frame.
But for Okemos teens, if there was a decrease in indoor tanning, it was less apparent.
“I haven’t noticed a drop in tanning bed use locally, but that’s probably because most people— at least at my school— try to keep their tanning subtle,” Okemos High School senior Darby Hopper said. “They know they’ll be mocked if they look orange. I don’t find it surprising that tanning bed use has dropped, though. The current trend here is to look a little more natural. That doesn’t include looking like an Oompa Loompa.”
Published on Dec. 23, 2014, the study focuses only on high school students. According to the JAMA Dermatology study research letter, “To our knowledge, this study provides the first national estimates of indoor tanning trends among this population.”
Although the prevalence of indoor tanning in Okemos teens remains stagnant for the majority of the year, Hopper thinks the number of students who tan rises before events like spring break or prom.
“I think that a decent number of girls tan throughout the year, but for the most part, they aren’t obvious about it,” Hopper said. “It’s almost taboo, assumably because of the health risks. Tanning definitely picks up before spring break, especially in the last two weeks of March.”
According to Pacific Tan of Okemos salon manager Carly Steinkopf, the number of students who use the salon increases from very few to a rush before a big event.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the cost, but we have mostly older, old-school tanners,” Steinkopf said. “That’s just who we choose to market toward. But before big events, we’ll get high schoolers from all different areas … mostly for prom and dances. Then we’ll get a rush to spray tan because it’s just easier for them.”
Nationally, about 10 percent of teenage girls and 2 percent of teenage boys still use indoor tanning beds on a frequent basis according to the survey. JAMA defines having tanned more than 10 times in the past year as frequent use.
“I would say those numbers seem a little high for my school,” Hopper said. “I would actually guess that more than 10 percent of girls at my school tan at some point during the year, whether to prep for a dance or spring break, but I think that 10 percent is probably a little high as far as those who tan regularly … and I don’t know any guys who tan.”
The survey sampled an average of 15,000 students per year from each of the National Youth Risk Behavior Surveys between 2009 and 2013. Students were included in the tanning portion of the results if they had used tanning beds, tanning booths and/or any kind of sunlamp.
“I think that some (students) are aware of the health risks but choose to disregard them because they think the risks are not relevant right now,” Okemos High School senior Hunter Usiak said. “Knowing the rate dropping is very exciting to me and I’m glad to see that more are recognizing the risks.”