Better Health Via Vanity?

  • Lauren Greenfield / Institute

    If you want a teenager to kick a bad habit, threaten her with wrinkles. A new public-health study finds that an effective way to get young women to cut back on indoor tanning — an activity that may hike the risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer by 74% — is to warn them of the aging effect of UV radiation on skin.

    In the study, published in the May issue of Archives of Dermatology, researchers gave 195 women, whose average age was 19, a booklet explaining how indoor tanning causes wrinkles. The warnings led the women to cut back on tanning visits by more than 30% over six months, compared with women in a control group who were not similarly cautioned.

    "Most young people spend little time considering their health except as it relates to their attractiveness," remarks Joel Hillhouse, the study's lead author and a professor of community health at East Tennessee State University. Which means that if appealing to common sense won't lead to healthier habits, then maybe vanity will.