Indoor Tanning Common Among Young White Females Despite Skin Cancer Risk 


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Indoor tanning, defined as using a tanning booth, sun bed, or sunlamp, is common among non-Hispanic white female high school students and young adults, despite risks of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer, according to a study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine

Using data from the 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey of high school students and the 2010 National Health Interview Survey for adults aged 18 to 34 years, researchers estimated that 29.3% of non-Hispanic white female high school students and 24.9% of non-Hispanic white women aged 18 to 34 years engaged in indoor tanning during the previous 12 months. Frequent indoor tanning (at least 10 times during the year) was reported by 16.7% of the high school students and 15.1% of the young adults. The prevalence of indoor tanning increased with age among the high school students and decreased with age among the young adults.

“Indoor tanning before age 35 years increases melanoma risk by 59% to 75%, while use before age 25 years increases nonmelanoma skin cancer risk by 40% to 102%. Moreover, melanoma risk increases by 1.8% with each additional tanning session per year,” the researchers noted. 

Changing Social Norms

“Reducing exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning is an important strategy for reducing the burden of skin cancer,” the investigators added. Videos on photoaging and other appearance-focused interventions have been shown to reduce indoor tanning among young adults by up to 35%. “Changing the social norms related to tanned skin and attractiveness may also be an effective strategy in reducing indoor tanning,” the researchers stated.

The investigators listed several other approaches to reduce UV exposure from indoor tanning. These include limiting indoor tanning among minors and deceptive advertising claims about indoor tanning. They also mentioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed reclassification of indoor tanning devices from low-risk to moderate-risk devices requiring premarket notification and labels designed to warn young people not to use these devices, as well as the 10% excise tax on indoor tanning services established through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. ■

Guy GP, et al: JAMA Internal Medicine. August 19, 2013 (early release online).


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