Number Of High School Students Who Indoor Tan Dropped In Half Interview with:
Matthew Reynolds
Acting Team Lead, Office of Communication
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Chamblee GA What is the background for this study?

Response: Indoor tanning and sunburns, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Researchers examined trends in the prevalence of indoor tanning and the relationship between indoor tanning and sunburn among US high school students. Pooled cross-sectional data from the 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. The study included nationally representative samples of U.S. high school students. What are the main findings?

  • The number of high school students who indoor tan dropped by half. 15.6% in 2009 à 7.3% in 2015. (Youth Risk Behavior Survey)
  • Much bigger decrease than we’ve seen in the past.
  • 82% of these indoor tanners are not only at greater risk for skin cancer b/c they indoor tan, but they’re also getting at least a sunburn a year – which increases their risk of skin cancer even more.
  • The drop in the number of high school students who indoor tan is great news. Over the span of 2009-2015, we’re seeing 1.3 million fewer high school students are not putting themselves at increased risk of skin cancer from indoor tanning.  (What was 2.5 million students indoor tanning in 2009 is down to 1.2 million in 2015.)
  • But, that means that 1.2 million high school students are still indoor tanning and increasing their risk of skin cancer. Plus, our data tells us that those students are also likely to sunburn, adding to their risk. Why the drop?

  • State laws are working
  • High school students are getting the message that indoor tanning isn’t safe. What should readers take away from your report?

  • People who indoor tan are at increased risk of skin cancer.
  • People who indoor tan are at elevated risk of sun exposure.
  • Treatment of skin cancer costs $8.1 billion annually.
  • A base tan isn’t safe. There’s no such thing as a safe tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin. What can individuals do to reduce their risk of skin cancer from excessive ultraviolet light?

Individuals can take a layered approach 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
  • Avoiding sunbathing and indoor tanning. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Watson M, Shoemaker M, Baker K. Indoor Tanning Initiation Among Tanners in the United States. JAMA Dermatol. Published online March 22, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.5898

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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