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Indoor Tanners Rationalize Risky Behavior, Study Finds
Date:6/20/2012

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Young people who use tanning beds rationalize the risky behavior with statements like "everything causes cancer these days," a new study finds.

Almost 40 percent of more than 500 U.S. college students surveyed said they use tanning beds even though they're aware of the cancer risks associated with ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. And most do it because they want to look more attractive, found the researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"It is really like weighing the risks and benefits," said study author Smita Banerjee, an assistant attending behavioral scientist at Sloan-Kettering. The students "said there are risks in everything you do, but they are really motivated by appearance enhancement reasons."

Hoping to find out how young adults rationalize tanning bed use, Banerjee's team focused on questionnaires filled out by 218 students, average age 20, who frequented tanning salons. More than three-quarters were white, and 88 percent were women.

The questions were adapted from studies designed to understand why people smoke. Students could agree or disagree with explanations such as "tanning bed use is no more risky than lots of other things people do."

The most common reasons for indoor tanning included: "everything causes cancer these days" (59 percent); tanning beds are "no more risky than lots of other things people do" (54 percent); and "it is dangerous to walk across the street" (53 percent). About 48 percent thought they didn't use tanning beds enough to put their health at risk.

The findings are reported in a research letter in the June issue Archives of Dermatology.

Tanning beds use ultraviolet light, a known carcinogen, often at strengths 10 to 15 times stronger than summer midday exposure, according to an investigative report prepared for the House Committee o
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