Increased Indoor Tanning Among Gay/Bisexual Men Raises Skin Cancer Risk Interview with:
Howa Yeung, MD
PGY3, Emory Dermatology
Emory University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Yeung: Indoor tanning is a well-established and preventable cause for melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancers. Public health efforts in curbing indoor tanning have focused on known high-risk populations, such as young, college-aged, White women. However, other demographic risk factors for indoor tanning remain unknown.

As our nation increasingly focuses on addressing and improving the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, more and more evidence demonstrates that various LGBT subpopulations face higher rates of cancer-related behavior risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol use, obesity, etc. We wanted to find out whether risk factors for skin cancer, such as indoor tanning, disproportionately affected LGBT populations.

Our study showed higher rates of indoor tanning among gay and bisexual men, with 1.8-fold and 3.6-fold higher odds of tanning bed use within the past year, compared to straight men, after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Disparities in frequent tanning, defined as using tanning bed 10 or more times within the past year, are even more prominent among gay and bisexual men. In contrast, no significant sexual orientation disparities were noted among women after adjusting for sociodemographic factors.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Yeung: Indoor tanning among gay and bisexual men is significant and underappreciated problem, with rates approaching those among other known high-risk demographic groups. These results call for critically needed clinical and public health intervention in curbing skin cancers among gay and bisexual men.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Yeung: We hope our study will encourage further research on skin health among LGBT individuals. Future studies should delineate the burden of skin cancer and its modifiable risk factors among LGBT individuals. In addition, specific mediators for indoor tanning among gay and bisexual men should be examined, in order to develop targeted interventions that address the root causes of disparities.


Yeung H, Chen SC. Sexual Orientation and Indoor Tanning Device Use: A Population-Based Study. JAMA Dermatol. Published online August 05, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2038.

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Howa Yeung, MD (2015). Increased Indoor Tanning Among Gay/Bisexual Men Raises Skin Cancer Risk 

Last Updated on August 23, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD