Indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, and is particularly dangerous for younger and more frequent indoor tanners.
To examine the prevalence of indoor tanning and frequent indoor tanning (≥10 times during the 12 months before each survey) and their association with health-related behaviors.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A cross-sectional study examined data from the 2009 and 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, which used nationally representative samples of US high school students representing approximately 15.5 million students each survey year. The study included 25 861 students who answered the indoor tanning question.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The prevalence of indoor tanning and frequent indoor tanning were examined as well as their association with demographic characteristics and health-related behaviors using multivariable logistic regression modeling.
The prevalence of indoor tanning was greater among female, older, and non-Hispanic white students. Indoor tanning was highest among female students aged 18 years or older, with 31.5% engaging in indoor tanning in 2011, and among non-Hispanic white female students, with 29.3% engaging in indoor tanning in 2011. Among female students, the adjusted prevalence of indoor tanning decreased from 26.4% in 2009 to 20.7% in 2011. Among female and male students, indoor tanning was associated with other risk-taking behaviors, such as binge drinking (P < .001 and P = .006, respectively), unhealthy weight control practices (P < .001, for both), and having sexual intercourse (P < .001, for both). Additionally, indoor tanning among female students was associated with using illegal drugs (P < .001) and having sexual intercourse with 4 or more persons (P = .03); use among male students was associated with taking steroids without a physician’s prescription (P < .001), smoking cigarettes daily (P = .03), and attempting suicide (P = .006). More than half of respondents engaging in indoor tanning reported frequent use of the devices.
Conclusions and Relevance
Indoor tanning is common among high school students. Public health efforts are needed to change social norms regarding tanned skin and to increase awareness, knowledge, and behaviors related to indoor tanning. The clustering of risky behaviors suggests a need for coordinated, multifaceted approaches, including primary care physician counseling, to address such behaviors among adolescents.