How Moms Risk Their Daughters’ Health: The Inheritance of Tanning Hazards

tanning beds photo legs
Tanning beds are NOT the way to get your Vitamin D fix.

Last year, the Israeli Ministry of Health issued a statement that tanning beds are as hazardous to your health as sunbathing. “In light of the accumulating knowledge on the rise of skin cancer – including malignant melanoma – the ministry is warning the public about the use of tanning beds, which are just as dangerous as exposure to sunlight.” For those in high-risk groups for skin cancer – people with fair skin, moles or a family history, for example – they strongly urged consumers to avoid using tanning beds, and recommended legislation banning the use of tanning beds by people under 18.

Previously, we covered how residents could put some SPF’s on their plates. Now those guidelines take on more urgent tones: A new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology has found that, “a large percentage of Caucasian teen girls and young women who use tanning beds reported that their mothers also use tanning beds.”

‘Carcinogenic’ Habits

When asked if anyone in their immediate or extended families uses a tanning bed, indoor tanners were more than twice as likely to have a family member who used a tanning bed (65 percent) compared to their non-indoor tanning peers (28 percent). Specifically, indoor tanners were four times as likely (42 percent) to indicate that their moms use tanning beds than those respondents who were not indoor tanners (10 percent).

Studies show indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than in males of the same age group.

“Mothers who tan indoors are not only putting themselves at risk for skin cancer, but they also may be putting their daughters at risk,” said dermatologist Ellen S. Marmur, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The survey shows how influential mothers can be on their daughters’ behavior, and that is why it’s critical for mothers to set a good example by not tanning.”

The vast majority of indoor tanners also reported that their own use of tanning beds was not a secret in their families. When questioned as to whether their parents were aware of their use of tanning beds, 94 percent of indoor tanners indicated that their parents did know that they were using or have used a tanning bed.

In addition, the survey indicated that a number of teens and young women feel pressured to be tan by their peers. For example, the survey found that those respondents who used tanning beds in the past year were nearly twice as likely to indicate feeling peer pressure to be tan (49 percent) compared to respondents who were not tanning bed users (28 percent). A vast majority of indoor tanners (96 percent) also reported having friends who tan indoors and/or outdoors.

“Tanning is a dangerous, unhealthy behavior, similar in seriousness to smoking or drinking alcohol, where teens often succumb to peer pressure,” said Dr. Marmur.

“Yet, it is troubling that so many parents are aware of their teens’ use of tanning beds and allow this harmful behavior to continue or even set a bad example themselves by indoor tanning. We urge parents to educate their teens about the dangers of UV exposure from tanning beds and to discourage or prohibit this activity for all family members.”

Global Concerns

According to Israel Ministry of Health, insufficient data exists on the use of tanning beds in Israel. The global use of tanning beds has been on the rise for decades, and many teens in particular are thought to feel pressured to tan to fit in.  Recently, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified tanning beds in its highest cancer-risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.”

Read more on skin cancer risks:
Put Some SPF’s on Your Plate
Make Your Own Organic Sunscreen

:: Image via Evil Erin


You can follow Tinamarie on @ModernLoveMuse and facebook. She blogs at

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