Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers School of Public Health shows no significant decline in indoor tanning rates among children under age 17 following a ban on such use in New Jersey enacted in 2013. The authors say it's a finding that underscores a need for continued surveillance of this population and ongoing monitoring of indoor tanning facilities. The work, which appears in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, also found an increase in tanning rates among male high school students in the Garden State from 2012 to 2014.
Indoor tanning exposes users to damaging ultraviolet rays, which can lead to skin cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this practice is particularly dangerous for those who begin indoor tanning in their teens or early adulthood, as it puts them at a higher risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers. On October 1, 2013, commercial indoor tanning was banned in New Jersey for those under 17 years of age. Investigators sought to examine whether there was a difference in indoor tanning use by New Jersey high school students after the state restriction was enacted.
Data for the study were drawn from the 2012 and 2014 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Surveys, in which a combined 5,700 public school students in grades nine through 12 in New Jersey participated. While the surveys primarily focused on tobacco-related issues, they also included several questions related to indoor tanning. Along with providing demographic information pertaining to sex, age and race/ethnicity, survey participants reported the number of times they engaged in indoor tanning in the previous year. The 2014 survey captured results during the period when the under-17 ban in New Jersey was in effect.
In the 2014 survey, 6.9 percent of students under the age of 17 years reported indoor tanning in the past year. This indoor tanning rate was not significantly different than the 6.7 percent rate reported in the 2012 survey. Additionally, the indoor tanning rates in the 2014 survey did not differ significantly from those in the 2012 survey for those aged 17 years and older. Among students of all ages, the past year indoor tanning rate did not differ significantly from 2012 to 2014 for female students, but among male students the rate increased from 5.8 percent to 8.6 percent during that period.
"The fact that indoor tanning rates among New Jersey high school students under age 17 did not significantly decline after an age restriction was enacted is cause for concern and speaks to the need for ongoing surveillance of indoor tanning rates for this population. These results also highlight a need for continued monitoring of tanning facility operators to ensure they are adhering to the age restrictions put in place," notes Elliot J. Coups, PhD, behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute and associate professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who is the lead author. "Additionally, the increase in tanning rates among male high school students in New Jersey during the survey period underlines the importance of implementing public health programs targeting varying demographic groups."
The authors also note the use of indoor tanning devices in private homes is not subject to age restrictions but should be addressed by future legislation. "Future research is needed to examine youth indoor tanning behaviors, including a focus on the settings in which they tan and the impact of legislative and educational initiatives on such behaviors," adds Dr. Coups.
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