Despite the well-known skin cancer risks associated with indoor tanning, a new study at a midwestern university showed 93 percent of the young women there used tanning beds within the past year, with a fifth doing so 50 times or more.

In addition, while almost all the girls planned to sunbathe in 2012, only 60 percent said they’d use some sort of sunscreen while doing so. What’s more, the indoor recreation center at the university has tanning beds, and researchers noted most apartment complexes catering to the 30,000 local college students offer free indoor tanning to help attract tenants.

Study author Whitney Hovenic, MD, MPH, chief resident in dermatology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, pointed to survey data showing three-quarters of poll respondents think tanned people are more attractive. “People still think tanned bodies look sexier, more fit,” she said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning raises the risk of melanoma, the potentially fatal form of skin cancer, by 75 percent, most notably in fair-skinned individuals and people with a family history of skin cancer and sunburn.

And while most of the women surveyed knew the risks, they were willing to take their chances.

Pearl Grimes, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “Even though the AAD and other organizations attempt to get the message out that tanning is bad and indoor tanning is exceptionally bad, we live in a society driven by aesthetics.”

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