A new study in JAMA Dermatology will come out this week that shows an association between tanning and teens being engaged in other risky behaviors. We have long known that tanning but this study provides us with more evidence that they may be risky for other aspects of our lives as well.
The study used data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance , a survey given each year to high school students across the nation. It’s performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and asks about multiple risky behaviors including eating habits, drug and alcohol use, sexual behavior, mood, violence, and yes…tanning beds. This current study had survey data from nearly 26,000 students over age 14 who tanned regularly and the results were surprising.
The researchers found that girls who used tanning beds were more likely to use illicit drugs and have multiple sexual partners. Boys who used tanning beds were more likely to engage in steroid use. Both boys and girls who used tanning beds were more likely to engage in binge drinking and have unhealthy eating habits (such as restricting their intake to lose weight or diet pill use).
So what does this mean? No, tanning beds did not cause the teens to go out and engage in risky behaviors, but this study does show that those teens who are tanning regularly may be more likely to have opportunities to take more risk. Perhaps they are more likely to hang out with a social group that engages in drinking alcohol or they may place more emphasis on appearance so engage in unhealthy behaviors to maintain a certain physique. More research is needed to flush this out.
The advice this brings to mind is to continue to have open conversations with teens about sexuality, drug and alcohol use, and healthy eating habits. I’d also encourage parents to think twice before allowing a teen to purchase a membership to the local tanning salon.
Here are some of our previous posts on tanning beds: