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.
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.