Objective: To examine the association between tanning bed use and weight concerns, health risk behaviors, and peer influence.
Methods: The Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) is an ongoing prospective cohort study of adolescents established in 1996. In 1999, a total of 6,373 adolescent females ages 12-18 (offspring of participants in the Nurses Health Study 2) completed the survey.
Results: Almost nine percent (8.6%) of the adolescent girls had used a tanning bed 1-9 times and an additional 5.4% had used tanning beds at least 10 times in the past year (frequent users). Logistic regression models revealed that frequent tanning bed use was associated with being highly concerned about weight (OR = 1.5, 95%CI = 1.1, 2.0), frequently dieting to lose weight (OR = 1.5, 95%CI = 1.1, 2.0), using laxatives or vomiting to control weight (OR = 3.6; 95%CI = 2.2-5.8), having friends who placed a lot of importance on being thin (OR = 2.6; 95%CI = 1.3-5.1), smoking cigarettes (OR=1.7, 95%CI = 1.1, 2.6), binge drinking (OR = 2.1, 95%CI = 1.3, 3.1), using recreational drugs (OR = 3.0; 95%CI = 2.4, 3.8), and trying to look like females in the media (sometimes/pretty much: OR = 1.3, 95%CI = 1.0, 1.8).
Conclusion: Frequent tanning bed use among adolescent females is associated with a range of health risk behaviors. This effect may be mediated by peer influence and a desire to look like other females in the media. Multi-pronged approaches, particularly those that target attitudes of young females, are needed to combat increased use of tanning beds.