With summer now in full swing, everyone should be worried about the negative effects of excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Recent news reports point to 2012 as one of the warmest years on record. With all of this natural UV exposure, why would anyone be interested in using a tanning booth or tanning bed? Loaded with a multitude of negative effects on the skin, ranging from short-term effects such as redness (erythema), to long-term effects, such as development of melanoma and other skin cancers, it is well known that tanning is a dangerous activity.
Despite the dangers of tanning, habitual tanners come out in droves, every day, to partake in it, regardless of the warnings. The glamour of tanning has been recently popularized by television shows such as “Jersey Shore”. On the show, the actors show off their chiseled, bronzed appearance and brag about their very frequent tanning activities. However popular, obsessive tanning activity carries a stigma. For example, the tanning-obsessed, New Jersey mother who allegedly brought her then-5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth with her was demonized in the news media. The incident had the country up in arms about the long-term health impact of tanning on the development of skin cancer in children and adolescents.
These events raised the ire of United States government health care agencies, prompting the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to recommend that healthcare providers counsel children, adolescents, and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 years about the dangers of UV radiation exposure and the need to use protective agents, such as sunscreen, to minimize the effects of such exposure. Along these lines, a new study examines tanning behavior in the upper end of the same age group. The study, entitled “Erythema and ultraviolet indoor tanning: findings from a diary study,” is now published in Translational Behavioral Medicine online.
The study was published by researchers of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in collaboration with colleagues from East Tennessee State University, The Pennsylvania State University, and Northwestern University. The investigators explained that the aim of this study was to establish the prevalence and predictors of indoor tanning (IT)-related erythema using patient self-reported data. To meet this aim, the investigators collected data from 6 bimonthly diary surveys administered to 198 female college IT device users (median age, 19 years).
By employing diary data, the investigators found that 66% of study participants experienced at least 1 episode of erythema, while 50% of the study participants reported 2 or more episodes and 36% reported 3 or more instances. Of the 1,429 indoor tanning sessions reported by participants, approximately 20% resulted in skin erythema.
In a recent CINJ press release, the study’s lead author, Jerod L. Stapleton, PhD, a behavioral scientist at CINJ and assistant professor of medicine of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, commented on the findings of this study. “What our findings show is that indoor tanning—advertised by the indoor tanning industry as a ‘controlled’ ultraviolet radiation exposure resulting in minimal risk of burn—results in quite the opposite. Despite these claims, our results show that sunburn is a common occurrence related to tanning bed use. This is particularly worrisome given data that suggest sunburns increase future skin cancer risk,” noted Dr. Stapleton.
Readers: Based on these findings, how will you educate your patients on the dangers of indoor tanning?