JAMA logoSkin tan has always remained an issue and the best solution to avoid it, is probably considered using a sunscreen. At the same time, there are some young women who claim that, they tan to relax or alleviate seasonal mood disorders. A recent study conducted by the East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, claims that, humans especially young people using tanning beds are supposedly, at a higher risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.

In order to reduce the risk to face skin cancer, most often, people are advised to reduce tanning and similar other behaviors which may tend to be risky like using a sunscreen. The study authors examined 430 adult female indoor tanners on a college campus. They then randomly distributed a booklet that included information about the history and current socio-cultural context of tanning to 200 adults. This booklet also highlighted the damaging effects of tanning on the skin and recommended to reduce indoor tanning. It also offered more balanced and nourishing options to upgrade their appearance, like exercising, adopting a fashion that excludes the need to tan or applying unless tanning products. The other remaining 230 adults were deprived of the booklet.

Joel Hillhouse, Ph.D., of East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, explained “Emphasizing the appearance-damaging effects of UV light, both indoor and outdoor, to young patients who are tanning is important no matter what their pathological tanning behavior status. Still, tailored interventions may be able to better address some individual motivations for tanning and their relation to psychopathology. The best methods for delivering these powerful messages and for matching message communication to individual preferences remain to be explored so that this promising intervention approach to skin cancer prevention can have a wider impact across varied settings.”

The investigators then analyzed all the participants, for seasonal affective disorder. Also, the four pathological tanning motives namely the feeling that one’s tanning is out of control; evidence of tolerance to the effects of tanning; the belief that one’s natural skin tone is unattractive and unappealing; or opiate-like reactions to tanning were considered. Then the frequency of tanning was again observed after six months of distributing the booklet.

It was observed that, the booklet was successful in reducing tanning behaviors for even those participants who reported a pathological motive for tanning. It means that, if young patients are educated that damaging effects of tanning on their appearance aids in reducing tanning behavior, even if they are addicted to tanning or using it to ameliorate depression symptoms. It was also noted that, tanners with pathological motives may also care about their appearance.

The study is published in the May issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.