Tanning Bed Use Common; No Counseling About Risks

Emma Hitt, PhD

October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 — A telephone survey conducted in Germany indicates that nearly 40% of respondents have used a tanning bed at some point, and just less than 15% have used one within the last 12 months.

Sven Schneider, PhD, from the Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Social and Preventive Medicine at the Heidelberg University in Germany, and colleagues reported their findings in an article published online October 15 in the Archives of Dermatology.

As a result of several studies on tanning beds and skin cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified the use of sun beds as carcinogenic to humans, Dr. Schneider and colleagues note.

"Detailed population-based information about the prevalence of sunbed use and individual user characteristics would be helpful in identifying starting points for future national intervention measures to reduce the health risks of exposure to [ultraviolet radiation]," they note.

In the current study, the researchers analyzed data from 4851 participants in a population-based telephone survey conducted in Germany. The survey asked participants, who were aged 14 to 45 years, and about half of whom were female, about the frequency of sun bed use and about the reasons they used a tanning bed. Most participants reported having either skin type III (35.2%) or skin type IV (27.9%). Users' characteristics were ascertained by logistic regression.

The overall prevalence of sun bed use was 39.2%, with 14.6% of the participants reporting that they had used a sun bed within the last 12 months. Among minors and persons with skin types I or II (the lightest skin types), 5.2% reported that they had ever used a tanning bed and 8.9% said they had used one within the past year.

People most likely to have used a tanning bed within the last year were female (odds ratio [OR], 1.97; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.64 - 2.37), had an immigrant background (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.21 - 1.77), and were employed either full-time (OR, 1.93; 95% CI, 1.53 - 2.43) or part-time (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.11 - 1.85).

Respondents cited relaxation and increased attractiveness as the main reasons for tanning bed use. Three fourths of the participants reported that they used beds in tanning studios; however, more than 70% of users reported that they had never been counseled about the potential harms of tanning bed use.

"A particularly large percentage of women, adolescents, immigrants, and the employed reported using solariums," the authors conclude. "The representative data also show that the advisory services provided in German solariums are often inadequate," they add.

According to the researchers, these findings emphasize the urgent need for standardized education of sun bed personnel by independent (not sun bed industry–associated) institutions.

"The results presented here show that advisory personnel fail to inform users that many motivations for using sunbeds (for example Vitamin D supplementation, holiday pretanning, [and] self-treatment of skin diseases) are not medically sound."

This study was supported by the German Cancer Aid. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Arch Dermatol. Published online October 15, 2012. Abstract