Young women still equate being tan with looking beautiful, and they don’t want to give up indoor tanning. (Photo: Trunk Archive)
While young women are in favor of stricter regulations regarding the potential health risks linked to indoor tanning, they are adamantly against a total ban on artificial tanning devices.
Researchers conducted an online survey of 356 American, non-Hispanic women between the ages of 18 and 30 who had had at least one indoor tanning session over the last year. The statistics derived from this study, which were published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine: Practice, Policy, Research, revealed the following:
- Three out of every 4 women (about 74 percent) supported policies to bar children younger than 18 from indoor tanning.
- Just about the same number of women (nearly 78 percent) were also in favor of stronger health warnings being placed on the tanning devices.
- Yet only 1 out of every 10 women surveyed would support a total ban on this skin regime.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already requires indoor tanning devices to be labeled with a visible, black-box warning stating that they should not be used by people under age 18 since the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sunlamps increases the risk of eye injury, skin damage, and skin cancer — including melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
The FDA adds that people who have been exposed to radiation from indoor tanning are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that high levels of UV radiation received from indoor tanning booths are “dangerous” and that “even a tan indicates damage to your skin.”
Currently, more than 40 states have taken steps to address this public health concern by introducing stricter regulations to limit indoor tanning, especially among minors. (Generally speaking, it’s similar to how state laws have been passed to address other public health concerns, such as tobacco, distracted driving, and motorcycle injuries.)
“I think one of the most interesting findings of our study, in general, is the stark contrast we saw in terms support for different types of policies,” Darren Mays, PhD, lead study author from the Department of Oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center, tells Yahoo Beauty.
Since the women surveyed strongly opposed a ban yet supported regulations that would keep children out of the tanning beds while also warning adults of the high risk adverse effects, Mays believes their somewhat conflicted views hold meaning.
“It is a signal that young women who engage in indoor tanning are generally favorable towards indoor tanning policies that do not directly affect their personal access to tanning, but much less so of policies that take their access away,” he explains. “Our interpretation is that this result suggests a need to explore policy options other than a total ban on indoor tanning, such as increasing the minimum age to indoor tan from 18 to 21 years.”
He adds that the online survey questioned the participants about their indoor tanning insights (rationalizations for indoor tanning), attitudes (beliefs about the positive benefits of tanning), and risk perceptions. “Generally, these measures indicated young women in the sample recognize that indoor tanning has associated risks, such as skin cancer, but they tend to perceive positive benefits from tanning that outweigh these risks,” continues Mays.
Overall, he concludes there’s “a need to develop better methods for communicating the risks of tanning to young women.”
“There’s really no safe level of exposure to indoor tanning,” states Mays. “So developing new ways to convey this message to young people in such a way that resonates with them, shifts their attitudes and beliefs, and motivates healthy behavior change is important.”