Awareness of the risks of tanning lamps does not influence behavior among college students

Arch Dermatol. 2002 Oct;138(10):1311-5. doi: 10.1001/archderm.138.10.1311.


Hypothesis: Awareness of the risks of artificial tanning influences tanning behavior among college students.

Objective: To correlate the prevalence of tanning lamp use, the perceived benefits and risks associated with UV exposure, and knowledge about skin cancer among university students.

Design: A survey was designed and administered to college students seeking "walk-in" care at a university student health center from September 7, 1999, through September 30, 1999.

Setting: A large midwestern public university student health center.

Participants: Undergraduate and graduate students attending the student health center for any medical condition.

Intervention: None.

Main outcome measure: Completion of the survey.

Results: Of the surveyed students, 47% had used a tanning lamp during the preceding 12 months. Female students were more common users than male students. Of the students surveyed, 39% reported never having used tanning lamps. More than 90% of users of tanning lamps were aware that premature aging and skin cancer were possible complications of tanning lamp use.

Conclusions: Despite adequate knowledge of the adverse effects of UV exposure, university students freely and frequently use tanning lamps, primarily for desired cosmetic appearance. To alter this risky behavior will require a fundamental change in the societal belief that tans are attractive and healthy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Awareness
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Students
  • Sunburn / epidemiology*
  • Sunburn / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Ultraviolet Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Universities