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Georgetown investigates myths and facts of indoor tanning

November 9th, 2015

Georgetown Tanning GraphicIt’s a well-known and documented fact that excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays has adverse effects on your health. Despite knowledge of these risks, indoor tanning studios haven’t gone out of business. Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies’ Online Master of Science degree in Nursing program, developed an interactive graphic, to illustrate misconceptions surrounding indoor tanning and how dangerous this activity actually is.

They decided to investigate tanning because, among the causes of cancer, it seems to be one that is actually gaining popularity. For example, the number of people who tan has not followed the trend of smoking, which has been whittled down to a core group of smokers. Tanning rates are high among young women in particular, and Nursing@Georgetown hopes the interactive graphic reaches young people who might know in the back of their head that tanning is dangerous, but find the peer pressure substantial enough to overwhelm their common sense.

Who Is Tanning?

In the 2010 National Health Interview survey, 5.6 percent of adults reported using indoor tanning devices during the previous year. The highest prevalence of indoor tanning (32 percent) was among white women ages 18 to 21, followed by white women ages 22 to 25 (30 percent). Additionally, 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data showed that 13 percent of high school students had used an indoor tanning device in the previous year. The highest prevalence of tanning was among older, white, female high school students. However, it’s not just women who are using indoor tanning devices: Another study found that 39 percent of men younger than 40 tan at some point in their lives.

What Are the Risks Associated With Indoor Tanning?

There are tremendous risks associated with indoor tanning. Using an indoor tanning device even once is associated with a 20 percent increase in the risk of developing melanoma. Indoor tanning before age 35 is associated with an 87 percent increase in the risk of developing melanoma, and the risk increases 1.8 percent with each additional indoor tanning session per year. Additionally, men are less likely to use sunscreen than women and are approximately twice as likely to die from melanoma than women.

Where Do People Tan?

There are more tanning facilities in cities with higher percentages of white residents and lower UV indexes. Nationwide, the number of indoor tanning facilities outnumbers Starbucks Cafes.

When Do People Tan?

Teenagers and adults are most likely to tan in preparation for special events, such as formal dances, weddings, and vacations.

Why Do People Tan?

There are a variety of reasons that people tan, some of which are associated with misconceptions of the true dangers of UV rays. There is a false perception that obtaining a “base tan” will prevent future sunburns, but one study found that indoor tanning was actually associated with a marginal increase in the risk of burn. Additionally, some believe that people look better with a tan and that there are associated health benefits. Finally, poor body image, depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, behavioral addiction, and social influences have an impact on if and when an individual uses an indoor tanning device.

Visit the original blog post for more research and full citations.

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