May 17, 2010 at 4:00 PM ET
Diane Mapes writes:
You'd think that surgery, scars, chemotherapy or even death might be enough to scare young women away from those ever-popular tanning booths, but new research says not so much.
Cancer's a bummer, for sure. But wrinkles? Those puppies are truly terrifying.
"They're not worried about skin cancer, but they are worried about getting wrinkled and being unattractive," says Dr. June Robinson, a dermatology professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and senior author of a new paper published today in Archives of Dermatology.
According to the National Center Institute, melanoma rates among 15 to 39-year old Caucasian women rose 50 percent between 1980 and 2004, enough to prompt the World Health Organization to bump indoor tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category -- up there with arsenic and mustard gas.
But informing young women that indoor tanning raises their risk of contracting the most deadly form of cancer by 75 percent hasn't packed much of a punch, since 25 to 40 percent of tween and teen girls still visit tanning salons.
With deadly melanoma so easily shrugged off, Robinson and her team of researchers decided to find out what would truly scare young women.
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This time, the message clicked.
Robinson says no matter why the young women tanned (some did it because they hated pale skin, other were self-treating their seasonal affective disorder), the fact that it would turn them into walking alligator bags resulted in a 35 percent drop in indoor tanning visits.
"The fear of looking horrible trumped everything else," she says.
Darby Roeder, who's tanned off and on since she was 18, says crow's feet and facial furrows certainly score higher on her fear scale.
"Wrinkles are scarier because it's the more immediate consequence," says the 24-year-old food worker from Seattle. "Although cancer can be a deterrent, too."