One in 10 Teens Uses Sunless Tanning Products

MONDAY Sept. 20, 2010 -- About one in 10 U.S. teens slather on sunless tanning products, and those who do are more likely to get sunburns and engage in other skin-damaging behaviors such as indoor tanning, a new study finds.

Looking into the use of sunless tanning lotions and sprays among 1,600 U.S. adolescents aged 11 to 18, researchers found that 10.8 percent of them had tried the products in the past year. Those who did so tended to be older and female, to have a parent or caregiver who also used such products, and -- not surprisingly -- to view a tanned appearance as desirable.

The researchers also found that the use of sunless tanning products by teens was associated with higher frequency of sunburn and the use of indoor tanning beds, which have been found to expose users to harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiation exposure was recently upgraded to the highest cancer risk category and is also the most common preventable cause of skin cancer, according to background information in the studies.

"Our findings are that in adolescents, use of sunless tanning products appears independently correlated with risky UVR exposure behaviors [indoor tanning and having sunburns in the previous summer] but not with routine use of sunscreen," wrote Vilma E. Cokkinides, of the American Cancer Society, and colleagues, in a news release.

Adolescents, therefore, must be educated about these products and the importance of avoiding indoor tanning and practicing sun-protective behaviors," they added.

The study appears in the September issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Another study in the same issue of the journal found that adult women sunbathers who were encouraged to use sunless tanning products sunbathed less often, had fewer sunburns, and wore more sun-protective clothing than those who didn't use the products.

"These findings have implications for public health and clinical efforts to prevent skin cancer. Promoting sunless tanning to sunbathers in the context of a skin cancer prevention public health message may be helpful in reducing sunbathing and sunburns and in promoting the use of protective clothing," wrote Sherry L. Pagoto, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and colleagues.

"Further research should determine how to further convince tanners to switch to sunless tanning," she added.

Most sunless tanning lotions and sprays contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone, which combines with amino acids in the skin to produce a tanned color.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about tanning.

Posted: September 2010


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