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Sunless Tanning Products May Encourage Sun Safety in Women

Posted: September 24, 2010

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"Our findings suggest that in adolescents, use of sunless tanning products appears independently correlated with risky UVR exposure behaviors (indoor tanning and having had sunburns in the previous summer) but not with routine use of sunscreen," the authors write. "Adolescents, therefore, must be educated about these products and the importance of avoiding indoor tanning and practicing sun-protective behaviors."

In another article, Sherry L. Pagoto, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, and colleagues recruited 250 women who were sunbathing at a beach to participate in a cancer prevention intervention study. Of these, 125 were assigned to receive information about skin cancer and sunless tanning. In a tent on the beach, trained research assistants provided the women written and verbal application instructions for sunless tanning products and information about the benefits of sunless tanning as compared with the risks of UV exposure. Participants had a UV-filtered photograph taken, which exposes skin damage not visible to the naked eye, and received free samples of sunscreen and sunless tanning products. The other 125, the control group, received free cosmetic samples not related to skin health and told they would be contacted for follow-up.

After two months, participants who had received the intervention reported sunbathing less frequently, having fewer sunburns, and using more protective clothing than those in the control group. After one year, the intervention group still sunbathed less and also used sunless tanning products more frequently than the control group.

"Encouraging sunbathers to switch to sunless tanning could have an important health impact, but sunless tanning has been considered a cosmetic more so than a health care tool," the authors write. "These findings have implications for public health and clinical efforts to prevent skin cancer. Promoting sunless tanning to sunbathers in the context of a skin cancer prevention public health message may be helpful in reducing sunbathing and sunburns and in promoting the use of protective clothing. Future research should determine how to further convince tanners to switch to sunless tanning."

From ScienceDaily.com, September 20, 2010