Numerous warnings to alert tanners of the dangers of tanning beds and prolonged outside tanning have been sounded in recent years.
Reuters recently reported the results of a study that showed college students who watch reality television beauty shows are more than twice as likely as non-viewers to use tanning lamps or tan outdoors for hours at a stretch.
The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Researchers admit the results don’t prove that watching shows such as America’s Next Top Model drive people to tanning booths.
However, the co-author of the study Joshua Fogel, health policy researcher at Brooklyn college, stated that "TV shows might not realize the message they're (promoting) by having all of these attractive, tanned people."
The study surveyed 576 college students, mostly in their early 20s, about their TV-watching habits of beauty shows. About 61 percent of them watch reality TV beauty shows.
Those who watched reality shows made higher use of both indoor and outdoor tanning as compared to those who did not watch those shows. Of the beauty show audience, 13 percent used tanning lamps, versus 4 percent of those who did not watch.
The rate for outdoor tanning was higher. Of the beauty show audience, 43 percent had tanned for more than two hours at a time, while 29 percent of those who did not watch had tanned outdoors.
The effect the media has on behavior has been the subject of many research studies. A paper presented in the UK discussed how the media influences self-esteem and body satisfaction.
Young women, as young as 8 years old, have shown that they are aware of societal images of female beauty, even when those images are unrealistic and “represent poor role models”.
One television beauty show discussed in the UK paper is an example. Sunset Tan, a show about the lives of employees at a tanning salon, was broadcasted during 2007-2008. Celebrities such as Britney Spears and others appeared on the show praising tanning.
Snooki of Jersey Shore fame was quoted as saying that there should be tanning beds in every home, according to US weekly.
Marybeth Hicks, a parenting book writer, told US Weekly, "It's disconcerting that [she] could have any sort of influence or be a role model ... or advocate something like tanning beds that could cause cancer."
"The notion that these people are celebrities at all give them credibility they should not have," she fumed.
The study discussed by Reuters did not ask the specific names of the shows the students watched, so the researchers cannot determine if particular shows contributed to excess tanning.
Researcher Fogel told Reuters that he felt that the shows may be influencing young people into thinking that tanning as something cool to do.
At the same time, he suggested that if it also possible that people who are tanners in the first place are drawn to these types of shows because “the characters look more like them”.
In any case, tanning is associated with increased risk of skin cancer. Since it is clear that celebrities do influence watchers in some fashion, publicizing more celebrities embracing “pale skin” and cautioning young people to not use tanning beds or over tan outdoors is one way the media could increase awareness.
The Impact of Role Models on Sun Protective Behaviours: Expert Paper by Lynne Eagle, Gill Kemp, Simon Jones, Julia Verne. Retrieved Jan. 18, 2013.
Joshua Fogel, PhD and Faye Krausz. Watching reality television beauty shows is associated with tanning lamp use and outdoor tanning among college student. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Published online 26 December 2012. http://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(12)01240-6/abstract
Reality TV beauty show viewers more likely to tan: study. Reuters.com. Retrieved Jan. 18, 2013.
Jersey Shore's Snooki Slammed for Promoting Tanning. US Weekly. Retrieved Jan. 18, 2013.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith