LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – "Stop tanning and save your skin." That's the message the U.S. Surgeon General called for on Tuesday with a Call to Action to combat skin cancer.
"We're all bullet proof when we're young and then we find that we're not," said Dr. Mark Jansen, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences.
More and more teens are voluntarily exposing themselves to ultraviolet light by participating in the ever-so-popular activity of tanning. But Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said in his call to action that tanning has put too many young adults at risk.
In Arkansas, minors under 18 need parental consent to tan. Yet still, many doctors agree that it's harmful to expose anyone at a young age to ultraviolet light.
"The real issue is that if you have somebody who is damaging their skin at a younger age, the likelihood that that individual is over the balance of their life is going to develop a malignant process is greater because they have more time to develop the malignancy," Dr. Jansen said.
Jansen said the rate of the melanomas in teens and young adults have gone up 75% over the last few years.
"The speculation is it's directly related to the phenomenon of tanning," he said.
Tiffany Pinkerton, General Manager at Sun Limited Tanning, is a strong supporter of safe tanning.
"Make sure you ask the right questions," she advised. "Make sure the salon that you're going to, they're skin typing you. Don't ever tan the full time right off the bat."
At her salon, they assess each customer's skin before they get in the tanning bed.
"The number one rule of sun tanning is absolutely do not sunburn," Pinkerton said. "When you sunburn, you are causing major damage to your skin."
Still - Dr. Jansen said any amount of exposure could be too much.
"Whether you're talking about light that comes from sunlight or light that comes from a tanning bed, the tanning response is a response to damage," he said.
And sometimes sunscreen isn't enough to protect you out in the sun. It's important to reapply sunscreen often because it when sweats away, you're left unprotected.