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

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

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.