Indoor tanners rationalize risky behavior, study finds

June 20, 2012 By Ellin Holohan, HealthDay Reporter
Indoor tanners rationalize risky behavior, study finds
'Everything causes cancer these days,' said many students who use the devices.

(HealthDay) -- Young people who use tanning beds rationalize the risky behavior with statements like "everything causes cancer these days," a new study finds.

Almost 40 percent of more than 500 U.S. college students surveyed said they use tanning beds even though they're aware of the cancer risks associated with ultraviolet (UV) . And most do it because they want to look more attractive, found the researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"It is really like weighing the risks and benefits," said study author Smita Banerjee, an assistant attending behavioral scientist at Sloan-Kettering. The students "said there are risks in everything you do, but they are really motivated by appearance enhancement reasons."

Hoping to find out how young adults rationalize tanning bed use, Banerjee's team focused on questionnaires filled out by 218 students, average age 20, who frequented tanning salons. More than three-quarters were white, and 88 percent were women.

The questions were adapted from studies designed to understand why people smoke. Students could agree or disagree with explanations such as "tanning bed use is no more risky than lots of other things people do."

The most common reasons for indoor tanning included: "everything causes cancer these days" (59 percent); tanning beds are "no more risky than lots of other things people do" (54 percent); and "it is dangerous to walk across the street" (53 percent). About 48 percent thought they didn't use tanning beds enough to put their health at risk.

The findings are reported in a research letter in the June issue Archives of Dermatology.

Tanning beds use ultraviolet light, a known , often at strengths 10 to 15 times stronger than summer midday exposure, according to an investigative report prepared for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce earlier this year.

They first came into use in the 1970s, and by 2007, about 27 percent of Americans, mostly women, said they used them, the congressional report said. Most users start as teenagers, Banerjee noted.

The World Health Organization lists tanning beds as a dangerous form of cancer-causing radiation, noting that use before age 30 raises the risk of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, by 75 percent.

In the United States, non-melanoma skin cancer strikes about 2 million people a year, with 50 percent to 90 percent of all cases resulting from UV radiation, according to WHO. It is the second most common type of cancer for people aged 15 to 29, Banerjee said.

In addition, about 75,000 new cases of melanoma are expected in 2012, accounting for about three-quarters of the 12,000 anticipated skin cancer-related deaths. However, most forms of the disease can be successfully treated if caught early.

Commenting on the study, one expert praised the researchers' approach. "They're definitely onto something," said DeAnn Lazovich, an associate professor for the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

"They're looking at a set of attitudes that might be related to the use of tanning beds, so it's novel from that standpoint," Lazovich said, adding it could help to understand why people engage in this risky behavior.

The tanning bed industry's regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seems to have "unintended consequences," Lazovich said. Laws intended to protect people can also create the perception that something is safe, she said.

Almost 32 percent of study respondents agreed with the statement that "if tanning bed use was so bad for you, the government would ban tanning beds."

Hoping to deter , the 2010 health care law imposed a 10 percent tax on , and many states restrict or ban their use by minors.

The authors noted some limitations to their work, including the small sample size, and said more research is needed to fully understand the desire to tan indoors.

Explore further: Many still tanning, despite dangers, survey finds

More information: To learn how to prevent skin cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.


Related Stories

Many still tanning, despite dangers, survey finds

May 28, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Despite public education efforts, many young adults still don't understand the dangers of sun exposure and tanning, a new U.S. survey finds.

The Medical Minute: No such thing as a 'safe' tan

May 28, 2012
In the United States, one person dies of melanoma every hour. More than 60,000 new cases of this potentially fatal form of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year, and this number is growing at an alarming rate.

Increased tanning bed use increases risk for deadly skin cancers

October 24, 2011
Researchers confirmed an association between tanning bed use and an increased risk for three common skin cancers — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, according to results presented at the 10th ...

Tanning bed users exhibit brain changes and behavior similar to addicts

August 10, 2011
People who frequently use tanning beds may be spurred by an addictive neurological reward-and-reinforcement trigger, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in a pilot study.

Recommended for you

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.