Sunday, April 24, 2011

Irrational Decision-Making: People Would Rather Get Cancer than Be Pale

According to a new study by BMC Public Health:

Even a higher risk of skin cancer isn't enough to coax some sunbathers to lather on sunscreen, a new survey found.
Many people with a family history of melanoma said they shunned sunscreen and embraced tanning, according to a survey of 500 people released today by BMC Public Health.
To me, this smacks of irrational decision making, though perhaps these folks have seriously weighed the trade-offs between tanning and maybe getting cancer on the one hand and being pale on the other. After all, people risk death all the time to undergo plastic surgery, so perhaps this is no different.

Or, perhaps consumers' discount rates are so high that the present value of being tan now is really greater than the present value of the future increase in probability of getting cancer.

Either way, it seems to me that we aren't educating people very well in the art of cost-benefit analysis (either in the actual art of cost-benefit analysis or in the appropriate discount rate to apply to their own lives) if they decide that being tan is worth risking skin cancer, even if they have a family history of skin cancer. To me, that just seems dumb.

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