US Indoor Tanning Rates Have Dropped Among Adults, But Millions Still Do It Despite Known Cancer Risks

tan
Tanning beds have been named a carcinogenic for humans. Valerie Yermal CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

After collecting and analyzing data from the 2010 and 2013 National Health Interview Survey, a recent study found that rates of indoor tanning among U.S. adults have gone down from 5.5 percent to 4.2 percent.

Published in JAMA Dermatology, the research by Dr. Gery P. Guy Jr., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data from 59,145 individuals and identified decreases within certain groups along with the overall reduction. Individuals in the 18 to 29 age range showed a decrease from 11.3 to 8.6 percent in indoor tanning rates, women’s rates went from 8.3 to 6.5 percent, and men’s went from 2.2 to 1.7 percent.

Unfortunately, 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still participate in the practice, which has been strongly linked to an increased risk of skin cancer. Among women who did participate in indoor tanning, the rates were 45 percent lower in college graduates and 23 percent lower in women meeting aerobic or strength physical activity criteria.

On the men’s side, rates were 177 percent higher among men in the 40 to 49 age range, and 71 percent higher in men over age 50. Researchers suggested that a lack of research intervention for this demographic could play a part in its higher rates of tanning.

In recent years, increased attention has been paid to the negative health effects associated with indoor tanning. The overall downward trend of the rates is most likely due to increased awareness of these harms among the public along with government mandated regulation, according to researchers.

Minors have been banned from indoor tanning in many states and are almost always required to get parental permission in the others. Tanning beds have been named carcinogenic for humans, and in 2010, there was a 10 percent excise tax placed on indoor tanning, which also could also have discouraged use.

One of the most difficult parts of reducing indoor tanning is tackling the motivations people may have to go tanning in the first place.

"Research regarding the motivations of indoor tanners could inform the development of new interventions,” the study states. “Physicians can also play a role through behavioral counseling, which is recommended for fair-skinned persons aged 10 to 24 years. Continued surveillance of indoor tanning will aid program planning and evaluation by measuring the effect of skin cancer prevention policies and monitoring progress," the study concludes.

Source: Guy G, Berkowitz Z, Holman D, Hartman, A. Recent Changes in the Prevalence of and Factors Associated With Frequency of Indoor Tanning Among US Adults. JAMA Dermatology. 2015.

Join the Discussion