Women Report more Indoor Tanning than Men, Few Adults Recognize Skin Cancer Risk

Despite the risks, few adults said indoor tanning increases risk of skin cancer.

ByABC News
December 20, 2010, 5:44 PM

Dec. 21, 2010— -- Dr. Cheryl Karcher hates to admit it, but when she was a teen, she too wanted the bronze bombshell look that is so appealing to many Americans. As a resident of Daytona Beach, Fl., Karcher hit the tanning booths, slathered on the baby oil, and even lay out with a silver metallic UV reflector around her neck.

But now Karcher sings a very different tune. After three different skin cancer lesions found on her chest, Karcher is a major advocate for sun safety.

"I was stupid," said Karcher, an educational spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation and a New York City dermatologist. "I was 18 and a student at the University of Florida, and I thought the tanner I was, the more popular I'd be. To be fair, though, we didn't know about [the dangers] as much back then."

Now, a few decades later, doctors and researchers have highlighted definitive risks of exposure to ultraviolet light. To add to that knowledge, a new study from University of Minnesota researchers offers the latest statistics on indoor tanning use.

Researchers found that women are three times as likely to use indoor tanning facilities as men, and almost one third of 18- to 24-year-old women went to a tanning booth in the last 12 months. The use of indoor tanning went down as the women's age went up.

And when researchers asked study participants to list ways to avoid skin cancer, only about 13 percent of women and 4 percent of men suggested that people should avoid tanning booths.

"Tanning beds actually cause cancer," said Kelvin Choi, PhD, a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "I was surprised to see such a knowledge gap there."

Scientists analyzed data from more than 2,800 Caucasian study participants ages 18 to 64 who answered questions related to lifestyle, demographics and indoor tanning use. About a third of those participants also answered questions regarding skin cancer prevention.

The research showed that women who used indoor tanning booths were more likely to be from the Midwest and the South. They were also more likely to use spray tan products. And, as age increased, indoor tanning use decreased.