Skin cancer rates continue to rise. Exposure to UV radiation and the resulting damage to the skin is major reason. It doesn’t matter whether this exposure is from outdoor or indoor sources.
Use of self-tanners should (intuitively) decrease the exposure to UV radiation as the desired “tan” is obtained from an alternative source. Not necessarily, especially in teens.
The Archives of Dermatology article referenced below reports on a study survey done by Vilma E. Cokkinides, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society, Atlanta, and colleagues. Their survey was telephone-based conducted, conducted from July 1 through October 30, 2004. A total of 160o youths and 1589 primary caregiver paired interviews using nearly identical questionnaires were done with an overall response rate of 44.0%.
The Sun Survey assessed the use of sunless tanning products by the adolescents in the past year, along with details about demographics, skin type, attitudes and perceptions of sunless tanning and other sun-related behaviors.
Among the teens surveyed, 10.8% reported using sunless tanning products in the past year. Approximated 14% of their parents used them. Self-reporting teen users tended to be older and female, to perceive a tanned appearance as desirable, to have a parent or caregiver who also used these products and to hold positive beliefs or attitudes about them.
Amazing to me was the finding by the researchers that the teens who used the self-tanners had just as many sunburns the previous summer, were just as likely to use indoor tanning beds, and did not routinely use sunscreen.
The conclusion I draw from this is: Teenagers use self-tanners to augment UV exposure to get (and keep) the level of tan to their skin. Teenagers aren’t thinking about skin cancer.
How do we change this? Gentle nudges as Dr. Luks suggests with exercise. Same thing here – gentle nudges.
"Use of Sunless Tanning Products Among US Adolescents Aged 11 to 18 Years"; Vilma E. Cokkinides, PhD; Priti Bandi, MS; Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD; Elizabeth Ward, PhD; Arch Dermatol. 2010;146(9):987-992. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2010.220