Watch CBSN Live

Reckless Tans

A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says that people who use tanning booths more than once a month increase their risk of getting cancer by 55 percent.

But that hasn't stopped teenagers from flocking to booths in record numbers. CBS News Correspondent Tracy Smith reports.

According to a recent survey, about a third of teenage girls use tanning booths. Yes, they've heard all the warnings about what could happen to them, but heeding those warnings is an entirely different story.

Eighteen-year-old Meghan Mann can't stand life without a tan. So she "fake bakes" about seven times a month.

She says, "Every time I turn really white, I start to tan more. It's almost like an addiction that you have; like, since 8th grade I've been going."

She likes to go before big events like school dances, always the bronzed belle of the ball.

"It makes me feel better. I have more confidence," she says. And she's not alone.

Despite skin cancer concerns and wrinkle warnings, teens are flocking to tanning beds.

One teen says, "Like, with makeup, you don't have to put on any cover-up. It just makes you look better."

"There aren't many girls in my school who are pale. Like, everybody tans," notes another.

"Tans are hugely trendy right now," says Brandon Holly, editor-in-chief of Elle Girl magazine.

And celebrities are contributing to the trend.

Holly says, "I think teenagers look a lot to celebs for style and beauty. There are a few celebrities, we call them tanorexics: Britney Spears, J.Lo, Tara Reid, the Hilton sisters. So it's very hard for girls not to do it, especially when MTV and movie stars and videos are all showing these tan celebrity icons."

In a recent online poll conducted by the magazine, 76 percent of teens said they know someone who has been to a tanning salon.

Dermatologists are worried that teens are soaking up the wrong messages. Dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas says, "It is particularly alarming, given how much we already know about the association of ultra-violet light with skin cancer. One can start to see permanent, early signs of wrinkling, brown spots and skin cancers in patients, as young as their late 20s."

Not surprisingly, Dan Humiston, president of the Indoor Tanning Association, has a different view. He says tanning is actually good medicine.

Humiston says, "Well, we say regular moderate exposure to the sun is good. It produces many things, including vitamin D, which is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. I mean if you look at all the diseases that are caused by vitamin D deficiency, it's just amazing."

But no matter how many times he's asked, he won't say whether tanning can also cause cancer.

If a customer comes into one of his tanning salons and asks, "If I go into one of your booths, am I at risk for getting cancer?" Humston says he replies, "Tanning indoors or out, regular moderate exposure to the sun is essential to a healthy lifestyle."

Good or bad, the health effects of tanning don't really concern teens like Meghan Mann. What matters to her is how tanning makes her look right now.

Mann says, "My mom always tells me not to, but I do anyways. I mean, you're only young once. So I figure, whatever, if I'm wrinkly, I'm wrinkly." And she laughs.

Christina Aguilera is one of the celebrities with a tan who the teenagers admire. But the editors of Elle Girl said they just did a photo shoot with her, and her tan comes from a bottle.