Between 2009 and 2013, the percentage of female high school students who engaged in indoor tanning reduced from 25.4% to 20.2%.
The research team, including Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), publish their findings in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
Skin cancer accounts for almost half of all cancer cases in the US, making it the most common form of cancer in the country. Each year, more than 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer. Of the 13,000 skin cancer deaths annually, melanoma - the most severe form of the disease - is accountable for more than 9,700.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation - from the sun, tanning booths, beds or lamps - is a primary risk factor for skin cancer, accounting for around 86% of non-melanoma and 90% of melanoma skin cancers.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just one indoor tanning session can increase a user's risk of melanoma skin cancer by 20%, while each additional session raises the risk by another 2%. And in June, Medical News Today reported on a study published in the journal Pediatrics, which found that tanning bed use among teenagers and young adults may increase the risk of early skin cancer.
Past research has shown that indoor tanning is particularly common among young people. But Guy Jr. and colleagues say their study is the "first to provide national estimates of indoor tanning trends among this population."
Increased risk awareness may have contributed to reductions in indoor tanning
To reach their findings, the team analyzed data from the 2009, 2011 and 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, which provided nationally representative information on the indoor tanning behaviors of American high school students in grades 9-12.
- Around 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime
- Over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined
- Melanoma skin cancer is most commonly diagnosed in white men over the age of 50.
In 2009, the survey included 16,410 high school students, while 15,425 were included in 2011 and 13,583 were included in 2013.
The researchers defined indoor tanning as use of a tanning lamp, tanning bed or tanning booth at least once in the 12 months prior to each survey, while frequent indoor tanning was defined as using one of the devices 10 times or more in the previous 12 months.
Between 2009 and 2013, the percentage of female high school students who engaged in indoor tanning reduced from 25.4% to 20.2%. Among non-Hispanic white female students, indoor tanning fell from 37.4% to 30.7%, while indoor tanning among non-Hispanic black male students reduced from 6.1% to 3.2%.
The team says the reductions in indoor tanning may be partly explained by increased awareness of the skin cancer risks it poses. "In 2009," they note, "the World Health Organization (WHO) classified indoor tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans, and several studies have demonstrated that indoor tanning increases the risk of skin cancer."
They also point out that between 2009 and 2013, 40 US states have implemented new laws or have strengthened existing laws in relation to indoor tanning. Of these states, 11 have banned indoor tanning for individuals under the age of 18.
Indoor tanning remains popular among youth
The team stresses, however, that despite the reductions found in their report, indoor tanning is still popular among high school students - particularly females.
Of the 20.2% of girls who engaged in indoor tanning last year, 10.3% said they engaged in it frequently, while 2% of male students said they engaged in frequent indoor tanning.
Commenting on their findings, the researchers say:
"Early intervention is vital to prevent initiation and promote cessation of indoor tanning. [...] This study provides nationally representative estimates allowing for the evaluation of trends over time and progress toward protecting US youth from the harms of indoor tanning."
In January, MNT reported on another study published in JAMA Dermatology, which referred to the popularity of indoor tanning among young people as "alarming."
The research team - from the University of California-San Francisco - found that 19% of adolescents reported engaging in indoor tanning, with 18% reporting using tanning beds in the past year. Overall, the researchers estimated that such levels of exposure to indoor tanning could result in 450,000 additional cases of non-melanoma and 10,000 cases of melanoma skin cancers each year.