More than a quarter of young white women in America use indoor tanning salons, exposing them to a greater risk of skin cancer.

Investigators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 25 to 30 percent of white women ages 18-34 used an indoor tanning bed at least once during the past year, with 15 percent reporting frequent usage.

"Among this population indoor tanning is widespread and because of the association between indoor tanning and cancer, reducing indoor tanning is important," Gery Guy Jr., the study’s lead researcher, told Reuters Health.

Although previous research has shown a 75 percent greater risk of melanoma among those who are under 35 and using tanning salons, no study had focused on the industry’s core demographic: young white women aspiring to the bronzed, windswept look of the yachting class. Whites are also more likely to develop skin cancer, running a two percent lifetime chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest type. In the new study, researchers analyzed information from a 2011 survey of high school students as well as a 2010 survey of adults ages 18-34.

"There haven't been many previous estimates just looking at the non-Hispanic, white population,” Guy said. “For the adults, there's really no data to compare it to.”

In the study, 29 percent of white high school girls said they had used an indoor tanning facility during the past year or so, with 17 percent saying they had tanned at least 10 times. Similarly, one in four white women ages 18-34 said they had gone tanning during the past year, with 17 percent reporting heavy usage of indoor tanning salons.

"These findings showing such high rates of indoor tanning in the population reinforce the importance of education efforts in young adults to reduce the risk of skin cancer," Guy said.

Younger women under age 25 double their lifetime risk of developing melanoma by using indoor tanning salons, according to previous research. Thirty-three states limit the use of tanning salons by minors, while California and Vermont ban children from indoor tanning. Brundha Balaraman, a dermatologist at the Washington University School of Medicine who was not involved in the study, says the industry should be more regulated.

"We should be at the forefront of educating parents and consumers of tanning beds about the risks associated with ultraviolet radiation," Balaraman told Reuters. “Tanning devices should be elevated to a Class II or III category for medical devices, which would at least require regulatory oversight of manufacturers.”

The federal government presently regulates tanning beds as a Class I medical device, a category that includes tongue depressors, latex gloves, and “Spiderman” Band-Aids. But as melanoma diagnoses continue to increase among young, non-Hispanic white women and girls, Guy and his colleagues believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should re-label tanning beds as “moderate-risk” devices. "I think it's important that multi-level, comprehensive approaches are taken, such as the FDA's proposed changes, counseling that's been effective and changing social norms," Guy said.

Source: Guy GP, Berkowitz Z, Watson M, Holman D, Richardson LC. Indoor Tanning Among Young Non-Hispanic White Females. JAMA. 2013.