Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified use of tanning beds as “carcinogenic to humans”. One would think that alert would have been enough motivation to decrease their use. However, a recent study confirms that the most effective method to motivate young women is to focus on how tanning beds increase wrinkles, will turn their skin leathery and make them less attractive as they age.
Researchers at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn. tested 430 women ages 18 -22 from a college campus who have visited tanning salons. There were 200 students in the test group and 230 in the control group. The test group was given a 25-page booklet authored by the lead researcher Joel Hillhouse, Ph.D, a professor of public health, which reviewed how tanning damages the skin, why one should avoid indoor tanning and alternatives to tanning such as sunless tanning products. The booklet also covered other healthy practices such as diet and exercise along with fashions that do not emphasize needing tanned skin.
Surprisingly, when surveyed six months later, the test group had dropped the number of their tanning visits by 35 percent. According to Hillhouse, quoted in moneytimes.com, "Don't focus on skin cancer. The message that will get young women's attention is indoor tanning's long-term effect on their appearance. That will wake them up and get them to think about this."
The women in the study were evaluated based on four specific tanning motives: feeling a compulsive need to tan, developing a tolerance to the sensation experienced after getting a tan, believing that their skin was unattractive if not tanned and enjoying the “opiate” like high after a tanning session. The researchers determined that the booklet had it strongest effect on two of the motivating factors: feeling unattractive and experiencing the “opiate” high.
Tanning has often been connected to looking and feeling healthy though actually, use of indoor tanning increases one’s risk of developing skin cancer by 1.5 to 2.5 times.