Sunless Tanning Products Associated With Reduced Exposure to UV Radiation Among Women



A survey of younger adult women suggests that use of sunless tanning products is associated with decreased exposure to UV radiation tanning methods among some women, especially among those who use these products frequently, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Despite the growing popularity of sunless tanning products (STPs), their effect on tanning behaviors has yet to be fully explored,” the authors write as background information in the study. “Although some studies have supported the use of STPs as an acceptable substitute for UV radiation (UVR) tanning methods (tanning bed use and sunbathing), others have raised concerns that promoting the use of STPs may encourage, rather than lessen, intentional UVR exposure.”

Rachel E. Sahn, M.D., from Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, and colleagues surveyed women 18 years of age and older on the Emory University campus and surrounding community areas between May 30, 2007 and December 4, 2007, to evaluate the use of sunless tanning products and tanning behavior,s and to determine characteristics of sunless tanning product users.

Of the 415 women who participated in the survey, almost half (48.4 percent) reported having used STPs at least once in the past year. Of those who used STPs, most had used self-applied products; only 9 percent reported using professionally applied STPs most of the time. Use of STPs was reported among women in all age ranges: 53.6 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds, 40.7 percent of 26- to 40-year-olds, and 41.4 percent of those older than 40 years.

Overall, 70.6 percent of women reported tanning in the sun, 26 percent reported using a tanning bed, and 25.3 percent reported both tanning in the sun and in tanning beds at least once in the past year. Of the women who reported STP use who also tanned in the sun, 36.8 percent reported having decreased their intentional sun exposure because of STP use, and among women who reported STP use who also used tanning beds, 38 percent reported having decreased their tanning bed use. The authors found that more frequent STP use was associated with decreased UV radiation tanning behavior, and those who had used STPs at least five times in the past year were more likely to have decreased their frequency of tanning in the sun (52.4 percent vs. 18.4 percent) and frequency of tanning bed use (51.5 percent vs. 23.8 percent) than were those who had used STPs less often.

Most women surveyed (92.7 percent) reported believing that tanned skin is sometimes to always more attractive than untanned skin and 79.2 percent reported sometimes to always feeling better about themselves when tan. The authors also found that lighter complexion, frequent use of UV radiation tanning methods, feeling better about oneself when tan and having a history of skin cancer were independently associated with use of sunless tanning products.

“The desire for tanned skin remains strong despite growing awareness of the dangers of UV radiation exposure,” the authors conclude. “This study provides promising data suggesting that as the appearance of sunless tanning product tans continues to be improved, sunless tanning products carry the potential to further decrease intentional UV radiation exposure and, subsequently, the risk of UV radiation-related skin cancer.”

(Arch Dermatol. Published online December 19, 2011. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.2072