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Sunless Tanners Don't See the Dark Side of Tanning Beds

Message About Indoor Tanning and Skin Cancer Is Not Getting Through, Researchers Say

WebMD Health News

Dec. 20, 2010 -- Sunless tanning sprays and products are often promoted as ways to look tanned while avoiding the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning beds, but a new study shows that sunless tanners are actually more likely to frequent indoor tanning salons.

"Our finding suggests that, instead of substitution, women and men use both means to obtain a tan-looking appearance," conclude researchers, who were led byKelvin Choi, PhD, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The new report, which appears in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology, also showed that women are more likely than men to use indoor tanning facilities and that many people are not aware that avoiding tanning beds can decrease their risk for skin cancer.

Even in an economic downturn, the indoor tanning industry appears to be booming. It has generated more than $5 billion in yearly revenues and attracts more than 30 million tanners each year, according to information cited in the new study. A 10% tax on indoor tanning went into effect on July 1, 2010.

Spray Tanners Also Use Tanning Beds

Choi and colleagues analyzed data from a 2005 study of 2,869 people aged 18 to 64. Study participants answered questions about their lifestyles and indoor tanning habits. In the study, 18.1% of women and 6.3% of men said they went to an indoor tanning facility during the previous year. Female indoor tanners were more likely to live in the Midwest or South and use sunless, spray tanning products. Women who were less likely to use indoor tanning beds were older, less educated, earned less, and were more likely to use sunscreen, the study showed.

Among men, those who were older and obese were less likely to visit tanning salons. By contrast, men who used spray tanning products and lived in cities were more likely to go indoor tanning, the study showed.

“The reality is that sunless tanners want to look tan whether with sunless tanning products, indoor tanning, or on the beach,” says Mathew M. Avram, MD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

One of the reasons that indoor tanning salons have held their own during the recession may be that they are an inexpensive alternative to a time-share in the Hamptons or a winter getaway in St. Barts, he says.

“People really care about how they look, and they think that being tan makes them look good,” he says.

Message About Indoor Tanning and Skin Cancer Is Not Getting Through

In a subset of 821 people who were asked what they knew about skin cancer prevention, just 13.3% of women and 4.2% of men said that avoiding tanning beds was one of the ways to stave off skin cancer. Participants did commonly acknowledge that using sunscreen, avoiding the sun, and wearing a hat were preventive measures.

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