UMMS research examines use of tanning beds in private homes

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

September 21, 2016
  Sherry Pagoto
  Sherry Pagoto, PhD

One in four people who use indoor tanning beds say they have used the equipment in private homes, according to a new research letter published Wednesday, Sept. 21 in JAMA Dermatology, by Sherry Pagoto, PhD, and UMass Medical School colleagues.

Dr. Pagoto, professor of medicine; Stephenie C. Lemon, PhD, professor of medicine; and colleagues write that about half of people surveyed who have tanning beds in their homes let people outside of the household use the equipment. One-third of those charged other people to use the equipment. 

The study included a sampling of 636 adults who said they had tanned indoors, with 27 percent saying they had tanned at least once in a private home. Among the 519 adults who had used a tanning bed in the last year, 44 primarily tanned in a private home and the other 475 did so elsewhere, such as a salon. Of the 44 recent tanners who primarily used private equipment, 48 percent said they tanned at their home; 46 percent tanned at the home of a friend or relative; and 7 percent tanned in their apartment complex.

The most common reasons given for using a tanning bed in a private home were convenience and affordability. Respondents also said they used private tanning beds more frequently and for longer sessions than those who use them in a salon, according to the study.

Because cost was a factor in the use of tanning beds in private homes, “strategies that increase the cost of using these devices may reduce tanning in homes. Home tanners appear to be a small but high-risk group who should be targeted in intervention efforts to prevent skin cancer,” the researchers wrote.

Of concern for Pagoto is that current legislation aimed at reducing the use of indoor tanning equipment and prohibiting minors from using tanning facilities only applies to tanning businesses, not private homes. Studies have shown consistently that indoor tanning increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

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