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Skin Cancer
Sunless tanning products can reduce UV radiation exposure

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A study by researchers at Emory University found that the frequent use of sunless tanning products is associated with decreased exposure to UV radiation from other tanning methods. The study also found that the desire for tanned skin remains strong despite growing awareness of the dangers of UV radiation exposure. The study was published Online First by Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. 

“For many years, the perception that tanned skin is more attractive has influenced people to tan in the sun, leading to an increase in UV radiation exposure and skin cancer,” says Suephy Chen, MD, MS, study lead investigator and associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine.

“Our goals in this study were to assess the effect of sunless tanning products on tanning habits and to ascertain reasons for using or not using sunless tanning products.”

There were 415 women who participated in the study. Each participant was surveyed about her tanning behaviors. Of those participants, 48 percent had used sunless tanning products (STPs), 70.6 percent had tanned in the sun and 26.06 percent had used 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. Frequent users of STPs were more likely to have decreased their UV radiation exposure.

Additionally, the researchers found that 92.7 percent of the women surveyed believe that tanned skin is more attractive than skin that is not tanned, and 79.2 percent reported feeling better about themselves when tan.

The authors conclude that until the perception that suntanned skin is more attractive changes, STPs carry the potential to further decrease intentional UV radiation exposure and, subsequently, the risk of UV radiation-related skin cancer.  As the appearance of sunless tanning products improves, there may be a wider acceptance by the public and further decreases in UV radiation tanning practices.

Researchers involved in the study include Rachel E. Sahn, and Emir Veledar, Emory University School of Medicine, Mary Jayne McIlwain, now in the Department of Anesthesiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and Kristin H. Magee, MD, now with the Dermatology Center of Atlanta.

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