Indoor Tanning Declines But Still Popular

Dr Gery Interview with:
Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH
Health Economist
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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

Dr. Guy: Indoor tanning exposes users to intense ultraviolet radiation, which damages the skin and can cause skin cancer, including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Previous research has demonstrated that indoor tanning is common among adults in the United States.

This study examined the changes in prevalence and frequency of indoor tanning among adults in the United States. Our study found significant reductions in indoor tanning among all adults, women, and men. From 2010 to 2013, 1.6 million fewer women and 400,000 fewer men indoor tanned. While these reductions are encouraging, nearly 10 million adults continue to indoor tan at least once a year. These individuals are trading a tan for an increased risk of skin cancer. While the tan is temporary, the risk for skin cancer is permanent.

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

Dr. Guy: Clinicians can play a role in encouraging individuals to avoid indoor tanning and to embrace their natural, untanned skin color. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends behavioral counseling about minimizing UV exposure to reduce skin cancer risk for fair-skinned individuals aged 10-24 years. Studies show that appearance-focused messages may work best among this population, such as messages that indoor tanning can cause premature wrinkles and age spots.

In addition to avoiding indoor tanning, everyone can:

  • Understand that tanned skin is damaged skin
  • Protect themselves and their families by:
    • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing outdoors.
    • Finding shade, especially during midday hours.
    • Using broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, even on cloudy days.
    • Avoid sunbathing

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

Dr. Guy: Ongoing surveillance efforts are needed to monitor the use of indoor tanning and changes in this behavior over time. This work will provide insight into the impact of efforts to reduce indoor tanning and prevent future cases of skin cancer. More research is needed to develop effective, evidence-based messages that are proven to change tanning attitudes and behaviors among adults. Additionally, research is needed to identify what strategies are most effective for creating social and physical environments that facilitate a reduction in indoor tanning.


Gery P. Guy, Zahava Berkowitz, Dawn M. Holman, Anne M. Hartman. Recent Changes in the Prevalence of and Factors Associated With Frequency of Indoor Tanning Among US Adults. JAMA Dermatology, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.1568

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Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH, & Health Economist (2015). Indoor Tanning Declines But Still PopularĀ