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People Still Covet a Tanned Look

Posted: May 28, 2010

When it comes to tanning, dermatologists have long suspected that most people need an attitude adjustment. Now, results of a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology confirmed the majority of people still idolize the bronzed look of a tan despite wanting to protect themselves from skin cancer.

The “Suntelligence: How Sun Smart is Your City?” online survey polled more than 7,000 adults nationwide to determine their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward tanning, sun protection and skin cancer detection. Twenty-six cities were ranked based on respondents’ answers to several questions in each category.

“Our survey highlighted the contradictory feelings that many people have about tanning—they like the way a tan looks but are concerned about skin cancer, which is estimated to affect about one in five Americans in their lifetime,” said dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “What they may not realize is that no matter whether you tan or burn, a tan from the sun or tanning beds damages the skin and can cause wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer. The challenge is changing the long-standing attitudes about tanning to correlate with people’s knowledge about skin cancer.”

In examining the survey data, Draelos noted that 72% of all respondents agreed that people look more attractive with a tan. In addition, more men than women (76% vs. 68%, respectively) agreed with that statement. Similarly, 66% of all respondents agreed that people look healthier with a tan. Once again, more men than women (70% vs. 62%, respectively) agreed with this statement.

When asked whether or not they believed that sun exposure is good for your health, 60% of all respondents mistakenly agreed with this statement. Analyzing the data by gender, more men than women (62% vs. 58%, respectively) incorrectly thought that sun exposure is good for your health.