Girls and women in neighborhoods with the highest socioeconomic status and highest UV radiation exposure experienced 73 percent more melanoma diagnoses than those from the poorest neighborhoods with the highest UV exposure, and an 80 percent greater melanoma incidence compared to those with both the lowest socioeconomic and UV exposure.
Clarke said the researchers were unable to glean from their data whether more affluent young women were more likely to use tanning salons, but said that scenario was likely. It's also probable they take more vacations in sunny spots where sun-bathing is a leisure activity.
Dr. James Spencer, a dermatologist in private practice in St. Petersburg, Fla., agreed with Clarke's theory and said the study "is confirmation of something that's been known for years."
He cautioned parents to be diligent about protecting their children's skin while in open sun -- perhaps even more than their own.
"Melanoma correlates strongly with childhood sunburns, so we think young skin is more vulnerable," Spencer said. "For the moms and dads, your child's and teenager's skin is a lot more vulnerable than yours. Most of the damage that can lead to melanoma occurs during childhood sunburns before age 20."
Clarke and Spencer agreed that young people resist anti-tanning messages, making it particularly difficult to target them in public education campaigns.
"What do we do to make tanning less cool?" Clarke said. "I think there are a lot of messages around tanning, though I'm not sure how much melanoma has been part of this conversation. But this is serious -- melanoma can kill you."
Spencer added: "Tell a 15-year-old not to get a suntan? That's just a really hard group to reach. I think teenagers know today, but they just don'
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