Tanning Shade Gradations of Models in Mainstream Fitness and Muscle Enthusiast Magazines: Implications for Skin Cancer Prevention in Men

Am J Mens Health. 2015 Jul;9(4):301-6. doi: 10.1177/1557988314543511. Epub 2014 Jul 18.


Tanned skin has been associated with perceptions of fitness and social desirability. Portrayal of models in magazines may reflect and perpetuate these perceptions. Limited research has investigated tanning shade gradations of models in men's versus women's fitness and muscle enthusiast magazines. Such findings are relevant in light of increased incidence and prevalence of melanoma in the United States. This study evaluated and compared tanning shade gradations of adult Caucasian male and female model images in mainstream fitness and muscle enthusiast magazines. Sixty-nine U.S. magazine issues (spring and summer, 2013) were utilized. Two independent reviewers rated tanning shade gradations of adult Caucasian male and female model images on magazines' covers, advertisements, and feature articles. Shade gradations were assessed using stock photographs of Caucasian models with varying levels of tanned skin on an 8-shade scale. A total of 4,683 images were evaluated. Darkest tanning shades were found among males in muscle enthusiast magazines and lightest among females in women's mainstream fitness magazines. By gender, male model images were 54% more likely to portray a darker tanning shade. In this study, images in men's (vs. women's) fitness and muscle enthusiast magazines portrayed Caucasian models with darker skin shades. Despite these magazines' fitness-related messages, pro-tanning images may promote attitudes and behaviors associated with higher skin cancer risk. To date, this is the first study to explore tanning shades in men's magazines of these genres. Further research is necessary to identify effects of exposure to these images among male readers.

Keywords: fitness magazines; skin cancer; tanning shade gradation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Bibliometrics
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Photography / statistics & numerical data
  • Physical Fitness / psychology*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Skin Pigmentation*
  • Sunbathing / psychology
  • Sunbathing / trends*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Suntan
  • United States