October 18, 2012
2 min read

Almost 20% of NCAA athletes reported indoor tanning

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ATLANTA — Nearly one in five NCAA athletes, exposed to high UV levels and elevated risks for skin cancer, photoaging and premature wrinkles while competing in outdoor sports, reported indoor tanning, according to survey data presented at the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery’s annual meeting.

“On top of this unbelievable, natural UV exposure that they get, [athletes also are] using tanning beds from time to time … whether to even out their tanning lines or for competition,” researcher Ashley Wysong, MD, of the department of dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Healio.com. “We essentially designed this study to look at tanning bed use and what predicts which NCAA athletes are going to use tanning beds.”

Ashley Wysong 

Ashley Wysong

Researchers distributed an anonymous survey to 290 NCAA athletes (older than 18 years) at two Division I universities. Demographics, skin type, sun exposure, tanning bed use and attitudes about perceived risk for UV exposure were obtained and analyzed using SAS statistical software.

Of 289 respondents, 55 (50 women) reported previous tanning bed use among an average athlete population that spends 10 months per year and 4 hours per day training or competing in the sun. Forty percent who tanned indoors had Fitzpatrick skin type 2, 38% had type 3 and 18% had type 4. Seventy-eight percent were from an East Coast university; 22% attended a West Coast university.

“[Those surveyed] were all outdoor sports athletes from 13 different sports,” Wysong said, with the most common being cross country or track and field (27%), crew (22%), soccer (12%) and swimming, diving or water polo (13%). Field hockey and lacrosse players had the highest percentage of tanning bed use overall, she said.

“It is especially concerning that the one in five figure [for tanning bed use] was in outdoor sports athletes,” Wysong added.

Using univariate analysis, the most important predictors of indoor tanning compared with no tanning were female gender (OR=9.8; 95% CI, 3.8-25.6), growing up outside the United States (OR=0.12; 95% CI, 0.04-0.36), being worried about wrinkles (OR=2.9; 95% CI, 1.5-5.8) and liking to tan (OR=1.9; 95% CI, 1.05-3.4). Reported indoor tanning also depended on where the athletes spent their childhood: 32% in the Northeast, 30% in the South, 22% in the Southeast, 19% in the Midwest, 13% in the Mountain US and 5% in the Pacific US.

“Indoor tanning bed use has been shown in several previous studies to significantly increase the odds of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, often with dose response effects seen with exposure at younger age,” the researchers concluded. “Continued efforts are needed for increased state and federal regulation, as well as ongoing education and public health intervention, particularly in this high-risk population.”

For more information:

  • Wysong A. “Tanning Bed Use among NCAA Collegiate Athletes.” Presented at: American Society for Dermatologic Surgery 2012 Annual Meeting; Oct.11-15, Atlanta.