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Despite cancer risk, a third of Minnesota 11th-graders use tanning beds

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Results from a recent state health department survey reveal an alarming trend among teenage girls in Minnesota.

In response to the Minnesota Student Survey, 34 percent of white 11th grade girls said they had tanned indoors in the last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. About half of them said they used tanning beds 10 or more times.

This is the first time questions about indoor tanning were included in the survey, which is conducted every three years.

“The survey underscores the importance of educating teenagers about the very real risks of tanning, one of which is increasing the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer,” Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a news release.

Melanoma is the second most common cancer among females ages 15 to 29 years old, according to the Minnesota cancer registry, and it continues to be one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the state.

MDH says tanning beds deliver 10 to 15 times more ultraviolet radiation than natural sunlight, increasing the risk of developing melanoma by at least 59 percent.

"Sadly, we do not know how to prevent many cancers. But, we do know that avoiding ultraviolet exposure can prevent many melanomas,” said University of Minnesota associate professor DeAnn Lazovich, a leading researcher on indoor tanning and melanoma at the School of Public Health and Masonic Cancer Center.

The Star Tribune reports anyone under 16 years old must have parental permission to use a commercially operated tanning bed in Minnesota. At least six states, including California and Texas, have banned minors from using indoor tanning beds altogether.

The Indoor Tanning Association, a Virginia-based organization that represents the indoor tanning industry and claims to "protect the freedom of individuals to acquire a suntan," contends there is a growing body of science that shows the health benefits of regular exposure to ultraviolet light, the newspaper noted.

That argument hasn't convinced those at the World Health Organization, who classifies UV radiation from tanning beds as a carcinogen.

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